You may not understand what intellectual property means as it relates to your business. Intellectual property is a broad term that includes products of the mind, many of which are intangible. It can apply to new products that you invent and sell or the logo or name that you use to identify your business.

To safeguard your brand identity and your business prospects, it is important to understand the intellectual property protections available to you. There are quite a few, with some of the most common being copyrights, trademarks and patents. These apply to different products of the mind. To save time and money, it is important to know which type(s) of intellectual property protection you need for your business.

Copyrights

Copyrights apply to an original work of authorship. This includes obvious works, such as movies, songs or books. It also includes works that you might not expect, such as architecture or computer software. If you are the only author, you can publish, reproduce or distribute the work at your discretion for as long as your copyright lasts. However, copyright protection does not endure forever.

Patents

While copyrights protect artistic or literary works, patents protect chemical compositions, industrial processes or manufactured articles. Like a copyright, patents provide protection for only a limited duration, which varies according to the type of patent. Unlike a copyright, which applies automatically the moment you finish completing a work of authorship, you have to apply for a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Trademark

A trademark identifies your company as the source of the goods and/or services you provide, distinguishing it from others that are similar. It can consist of a design or symbol that you use as a logo, your business name or a slogan associated with your business. Registering a trademark provides extra protection, but you gain rights to a trademark through the use of it. Therefore, registration is not necessary. Unlike copyrights and patents, trademark protection can last forever.

It is possible to have more than one type of intellectual property protection. In fact, your business may require it.