For business owners, inventors, and creatives, intellectual property is the source of their livelihood. In order to protect this livelihood, it would be a good idea for these people to consider placing some sort of legal protection on their work.

There are three main ways to achieve protection for your ideas, creations, and discoveries:

  • Copyright
  • Trademark
  • Patent

What is copyright?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright is a form of protection for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression – both published and unpublished works. This type of protection is rooted in the U.S. Constitution.

The interesting thing about copyright is that registration is voluntary. This means that any original works are automatically granted protection when they come into existence. However, in the case that someone is seeking a lawsuit for copyright infringement they will have to register.

What is a trademark?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says that a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. There is also such a thing as a service mark, which functions the same as a trademark but it covers services rather than goods.

A few examples of a trademark include:

  • Brand names
  • Slogans
  • Logos

What is a patent?

Finally, a patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention also granted by the USPTO, which is contingent upon disclosing the invention publicly. There are two kinds of patents that may be granted:

  • A design patent, which is valid for 15 years after being issued
  • A utility patent, which is valid for 20 years after being issued

What now?

How you protect your intellectual property will largely depend on the form it takes. There is much more detailed information pertaining to these protections than is discussed here, so reach out to an experienced intellectual property attorney to learn more and to safeguard your creations.