Intellectual Property

What is intellectual property?

Patents and trademarks and copyrights, oh my! Intellectual property is a type of intangible property that can be described as “creative property.” It is an ownership interest in ideas. It is so-named in contrast to “real property.” (Real property is tangible property, such as houses, cars, boats, books, etc.).

What are the different types of intellectual property?

There are four main types of intellectual property: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Here’s a quick rundown of what each entails:


A patent is a right to an invention. There are three types of patents: design patents, plant patents, and utility patents. The overwhelming majority of patents filed in the United States are utility patents. Utility patents devices and processes. For example, a “user-operated amusement apparatus for kicking the user’s buttock’s” could be the subject of a utility patent.


A trademark is a right to something that indicates the source of a product. It may be a design, an image, a name, or a whole bunch of other things. Owning a trademark grants you the exclusive right to use whatever you’ve trademarked in commerce. Registering a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office provides many benefits.


A copyright is a right to an artistic work. Authors can copyright the books they write, for example. An artist owns the copyright to his work the second he creates it. Although copyright registration does provide a good deal of benefits, others cannot steal your work simply because you have not registered a copyright.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is a piece of confidential business information that gives its owner an edge. For example, the recipe for Coca-Cola (R) is a trade secret. Companies sometimes use trade secrets rather than patents because patents only protect for a limited amount of time.

Chris Mutchler
Christopher J. Mutchler, Esq.

Mutchler’s Business Bible
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