Intellectual Property: Know Your Rights

intellectual property

One of the best qualities of the American business environment is that it encourages innovation.  Americans love new ideas and new products. We are a creative country that pushes people to think outside the box.  Intellectual property law is one of the key components of that creativity. While the law might not seem like an innovative field, the protection it offers allows others to create new products and ideas.  Intellectual property laws protect new ideas by preventing others from stealing those ideas. But sometimes inventors are not sure what their rights are when it comes to this type of law. Here are some basic guidelines about what intellectual property is and what your rights are when it comes to new products and ideas.

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind.  It is the idea of something that no one has thought of before.  This can be artwork, literary work, inventions, designs, symbols, names, or images.  When an individual comes up with a new idea in one of these areas, he or she can seek protection under the law.  This prevents other people from benefiting financially or receiving recognition for developing the new idea. In other words, intellectual property laws prevent copycats from stealing your ideas.  If you are unsure about whether or not your development is truly new or if you should protect it, consult with an intellectual property lawyer. An experienced lawyer will research your claim to determine whether anyone else has already filed for the rights to that idea.  If not, your lawyer will advise you as to the best way to protect your idea.

How To Protect Intellectual Property

There are four types of intellectual property.  Your lawyer can help you to determine which type of protection works best for your product or idea.  In some cases, one product or idea can be protected by more than one type as well.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is secret information that is valuable and that the developer has taken reasonable steps to keep secret.  Most intellectual property starts out as a trade secret. Trade secrets include business plans, recipes, research ideas, and more.  Trade secrets are only protected as long as the owner purposefully keeps them secret and does not voluntarily share them. They are not protected if someone else can reverse engineer them.  An example of a trade secret the recipe for Coca-Cola.


Trademarks include the brand name and anything that identifies the brand’s product or service.  They protect the brand name, slogans, logos, or even product configuration. For example, a trademark protects both the name Coca-Cola and its signature bottle.


Copyrights protect works of authorship preserved in a tangible format, such as on paper or saved digitally.  These protect books, diaries, articles, movies, videos, photos, paintings, sculptures, maps, technical drawings, music, computer programs, webpages, and software.


Patents protect inventions. There are two types of patents: aesthetic and functional.  A design patent protects the ornamentation, sculpture, pattern design, layout, or other aesthetic features of your product.  A functional patent protects the utility or function of your product. Some products should be protected by both types of patents.  A lawyer can advise you as to whether you should file for one or both types of patents.

If you have developed intellectual property and need help to protect your rights, reach out to the team at Locate Legal Help.  We can help you to find an intellectual property lawyer near you.