Intellectual Property Basics

What is Intellectual Property - Basic Information
What is Intellectual Property - Basic Information

What is intellectual property?

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is property like personal property and real property. Personal property is things like your car or computer. Real property is things like your house or business. Intellectual Property is patents, trade secrets, trademarks, service marks, copyrights, domain names, and business names. The following frequently asked questions list includes a brief description for each type of intellectual property.

What is a patent?

A patent is the legal right to control the making, using, and selling of an invention.

What is intellectual property? Patents are intellectual property. A patent is the right to control the making, using, and selling of goods. In essence a patent is a legal form of a monopoly in the country where issued. Patents protect inventions. A patent is the legal right to control the making, using, and selling of an invention. There are three kinds of patents: 1. utility patents, 2. design patents, and 3. plant patents. Utility patents protect what an invention does. In other words, the invention’s use or function. Design patents protect what an invention looks like. In other words, the ornamental appearance. Plant patents protect new varieties of plants. Specifically, plant patents are only for plants that can be reproduced asexually. 
Patents protect inventions of goods and methods. In order to get patent protection you must file a patent application that ultimately results in an issued patent. You can file your own patent application, but as with trademarks, applying for a patent is a legal proceeding that has a lot of requirements as to form and content. Regular lawyers are not licensed to practice/prosecute patents. But, patent practitioners are. The United States Patent and Trademark Office issues a special registration for patent practitioners. Patent practitioners are either patent agents or patent attorneys, depending on whether the patent practitioner has also been admitted to a state law bar.
A utility or plant patent will last for 20 years from date of application, if the maintenance fees are paid at the required times. A design patent will last for 15 years from date of issue. But, there are no maintenance fees for design patents. 

What is a trade secret?

Trade Secrets protect information.

What is intellectual property? Trade secrets are intellectual property that protect information. Trade secrets protect devices or techniques used in making goods. A trade secret is only protected as long as it remains secret. Public disclosure of even a patentable device or method may prevent it from being protectable as a patent if it is not claimed within 12 months of release to the public.

What is a trademark?

Trademarks and service marks protect your brand.

What is intellectual property? Trademarks and service marks are intellectual property. Trademarks protect brand names and logos used on goods and services. A trademark is a mark in the form of a word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods from the goods of others. There is a version for services as well, called a service mark. A service mark is the same as a trademark except it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service, instead of goods. 
Trademarks and service marks protect brand names and logos. You are not required to register trade or service marks. But it can offer notice to the public of your claim, a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and the exclusive right to use it on your goods or services. You can register your own trade or service mark. But, the trademark registration process is a legal proceeding that requires you to act within certain deadlines. As with copyrights, lawyers are available to help with trademarks and service marks, and some even specialize in this area. 
A trademark can potentially last essentially indefinitely in the form of an unlimited chain of ten year periods. In other words, a trade or service mark can last indefinitely (like the business it is attached to) provided the legal requirements for post registration maintenance and renewal are timely filed and paid every ten years,
Trademark lawyer referrals. Check out our trademark affiliates. You can ask them more about what is intellectual property.

What is a domain name?

Domain names protect your brand.

What is intellectual property? Domain names are intellectual property that protects your brand. Domain names, while not necessarily registered as trade or service marks, are also intellectual property. They are in essence, internet real estate. 
Domain names are registered with accredited domain name registrars. You can also let your website host register your domain name for you. Registering a domain name does not offer trademark protection. However, domain names can be trademarked. 
Check out our trademark affiliates. You can ask them more about what is intellectual property.

What is a business name?

Business name registration protects your brand.

What is intellectual property? Business names are intellectual property that protects your brand. Business names, while not necessarily registered as trade or service marks, are also intellectual property. Your business name is the name by which people know your business. The business does not have to be the same as the registered, or Doing Business As (DBA) name of the business. 
Business names are registered with a state or local government agency by filing the required paperwork. Registering a business name with your state or local government does not offer trademark protection. However, business names can be trademarked. 
Check out our trademark affiliates. You can ask them more about what is intellectual property.

What is a copyright?

Copyrights protect original works of authorship.

What is intellectual property? Copyrights are intellectual property that protect original works of authorship. Copyrights protect original literary or artistic works. A copyright is the exclusive legal right given to an originator (or an assignee) to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and prepare derivative works based on the work. A copyright also gives the owner the right to let others exercise these exclusive rights (license), subject to certain statutory limitations. 
Copyright protects an original work as soon as the author “fixes the work in a tangible form of expression.” In other words, when you, or someone working for you, creates and posts, publishes, or prints the work, it is protected by copyright. 
Titles, names, short phrases, slogans, symbols, listings of contents or ingredients, and mere variations of font and coloring are not creative and thus are not copyrightable. However, you may be able to protect these things with a trademark. Copyright does not protect ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, or discoveries. However, you may be able to protect these things with a patent.
A copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. Registration of a copyright with the US Copyright Office is not mandatory but can offer enhanced protection. You can register your own work at the US Copyright Office. But, if you are looking for help, lawyers are available to help, some even specialize in copyrights.
Copyright lawyer referrals.
Check out our copyright affiliates. You can ask them more about what is intellectual property.

Patenting is complex and time consuming. Patent agents and patent attorneys are specially licensed to work on patents. In order to become licensed, patent practitioners must have a degree in engineering or a specialty. The technical knowledge is often necessary to understand the mechanics and intricacies of your invention. Frequently, it is the engineering degree the patent agent or attorney holds that is the most helpful in writing and prosecuting patent applications. This is because patent applications must describe in detail how to make and use the invention to a person skilled in the art of the invention. Thus, hiring a patent practitioner is highly recommended.

Contact us to find out more about what is intellectual property.

What is intellectual property?
What is intellectual property?

Important TIP: When looking for patent services, only a patent attorney or patent agent can prosecute patents for you.

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What is intellectual property?

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By Gregory Carson

I own and operate Carson Patents® a Personal Patent Services™ Firm. I am licensed to practice as a Patent Agent before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Patent Cases.