Intellectual Property

An Overview on Patent, Copyright, and Trademarking

Understanding intellectual property law and protections can be a complicated ordeal. This article will serve to highlight some of the most common intellectual property branches to help identify the best option for you.

What is Intellectual Property?

Usually when people think of property, they think about physical property. This can include real estate property such as homes, private land, or business complexes. It can also include personal property such as cars, computers, or other possessions. A person’s property, however, can also be considered in different terms. For example, intellectual property deals with the legal rights of things that are often intangible. There are three main components to intellectual property:

1. Copyrights
2. Trademarks
3. Patents

Each of these branches offer different forms of legal protections that serve to protect different forms of work, developments, and projects. Understanding the differences between the three branches can help you understand if something qualifies to be legally protected.

Further, it is important to know that the different categories of intellectual property can be complex and difficult to understand. Not all require a formal petition or form, in order to fully understand intellectual property as it pertains to your efforts, consult with a qualified and experienced intellectual property attorney. With the guidance and support of a business attorney, you could save valuable time and money by understanding what petitions and forms you will need to complete.

Copyright Law

Copyright law is a type of security supported in the United States Constitution. In 1976, the Copyright Act was passed which gave exclusive rights to those who held copyright ownership of a product. The legal rights given to these owners allowed for flexibility so that owners may determine how they wanted to profit from the copyrighted project. It is also worth mentioning that the copyright holder(s) have the authority to license or sell any rights legally granted to them to a third party.

Granted by law, copyright serves to protect original works of production set in a definable medium of expression. Copyright law serves to protect published as well as unpublished works. The following list includes some of the material that may be covered under copyright law. This includes artistic forms of work such as:

  • Poetry
  • Architecture and design
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Books
  • Drawings
  • Paintings
  • Software

The following list highlights works that are not protected under copyright law. This includes the following:

  • Known facts
  • Classifications, systems, or arrangements
  • A method of operation

Copyright law gives the content creator or legal assignee the exclusive right to the following:

  • The ability to publish the work
  • The freedom to print, or reprint the work
  • The freedom to perform the work
  • The ability to make a film production about the work
  • The freedom to allow other parties to do the same


When a party is attempting to petition for a trademark, it is usually in regard to registering the following:

  • The name of a company, tool, or other object
  • A phrase
  • A logo or drawing that represents, identifies, or helps to distinguish a service or product from other similar services or products

A trademark can be registered under the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It can also be established by the regular use of it in the appropriate marketplace. One of the main focuses of trademark law is the effort to prevent consumer misperception. This allows the owner of the trademark to file a lawsuit against an infringing party. For instance, Starbucks and its logo are both widely recognized. The coffee shop’s logo, in fact, can be recognized even without the Starbucks name next to it. Just about every American can recognize the classic round emblem, ornamented with a green mermaid with two tails.

A different coffee shop, however, has now begun to use the same logo. They have done so in an effort to gain traction and to attract Starbucks’ customers. Starbucks now has the legal right to sue this infringing coffee shop for its damages.


A patent is a license or legal right given to an inventor or organization that allows this party to produce, sale, utilize, and even import an invention. This is only given to the party or organization for a set limited time. Having a patent on an invention allows the inventor or organization the legal right to file suit against any infringing party. It is important to note that there are various different categories of patents available, which depend on the type of the invention. For more information, an interested party can visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to obtain the various application forms.

The Bottom Line

If you have a product, idea, or any other unique material, you may be considering a way to safeguard and protect this development. Unfortunately, intellectual property law can be complex and difficult to understand. Based on the nature of the project you are attempting to secure, it may be difficult to adequately petition for its preservation.

By consulting with a qualified intellectual property attorney, you are ensuring that the appropriate form or application is filed. An experienced intellectual property attorney can guide you through the entire process of the petition, thus saving you time and money. Learn the differences between each branch of intellectual property law; consult with an attorney fluent in business law who can guide you through the process.