Any invention, idea, image or concept that has come to be as a result of someone’s creativity may be considered intellectual property. In order for an individual to claim ownership of intellectual property, they must first identify it as being theirs through the use of copyrights, trademarks or patents. Understanding the difference between the three can help people better protect their intellectual property in the event it is used without their permission.
At the most basic level of intellectual property ownership is the patent. A patent is a federal protection of an individual’s invention. There are three main types of patents used to protect intellectual property. A utility patent is the most common and is granted to chemical, mechanical and process-related inventions. Design patents are similarly common and are used to show ownership of an invention’s unique design and appearance. The less common plant patent is used to show ownership of plant varieties arrived at through means other than seed planting. These patents allow the owner, who is often the inventor, the right to sell, make and use the patented invention for a specific period of time.
Copyrights are an option available to the creators of written works. These pieces can include books, recordings, photographs, movies and software. While copyrights may protect original works, the protection offered does not extend past that. As the owner of a copyrighted piece, you have the exclusive right to distribute, sell or reproduce your written work as you choose.
In addition to patents and copyrights, trademarks may be used as an additional protection for intellectual property. A trademark may be used when the creator of any identifying emblem, service or goods would like to distinguish itself from others in its category. If a trademark is distinguishable, it is difficult for other individuals and companies to use similar symbols without being sued for trademark infringement.
If you’re concerned with protecting your intellectual property, you may benefit from speaking with an experienced business law attorney.