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"There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." Those were famous words by Victor Hugo. Intellectual property rights are a cornerstone of the economy and progress in general. Not only do they protect the ideas of larger corporations, but they just as equally protect the rights of the little guy. You should understand the different types of intellectual property rights to help you better understand how you're protected, and what to look out for to ensure you don't run into legal troubles. Most likely most people have heard of these types of intellectual property rights. However, distinguishing the difference between them is another story. Let's dive in!

It's important to note that there are services and products offered by a business that can use numerous types of these intellectual property rights in tandem. Knowing what they are, and being able to distinguish them is crucial for your small business survival


The first type of intellectual property right to consider is the patent. The patent is used to prevent you invention/creation from being reproduced or sold without your approval. Ironically, when you provide more important details on how your invention works you get better protection. The patent office will reject your patent if ample details are not provided. This is so because a patent is really protecting the invention of a new process. To qualify, your invention must satisfy three basic criteria to get a patent:

  1. Novelty- your invention can't already be public. Even if made public by yourself!
  2. Inventive step- your invention cannot be a solution that would be obvious.
  3. Industrial applicability- Your invention must actually be feasible to manufacture.

After deciding whether or not your invention satisfies these requirements it's time to look into the types of patents available. For simplicity, there are three basic types of patents:

  1. Utility patent- protection of new or improved product or process.
  2. Design patent- protection of unique visual distinctions of a manufactured item. Protects the ornamental design of the product.
  3. Plant patent- protection of new kinds of plants. This is an interesting one for the agricultural world!

Patents are a type of intellectual property right that you want for your invention! not to mention, accidently violating a patented product can land you in serious legal trouble. Therefore, look up existing patents here before you release a new product.


The next type of intellectual property right we will examine is the trademark. The Trademark™ (see what I did there) is protection mainly designed for branding of a business. The trademark protects a distinctive sign or name that identifies a product or service. Think of some of the most popular trademarks:

  • Google
  • Kleenex
  • McDonalds

Some of these trademarks have become so popular they are essentially a synonym for the name of the object or service they produce. For instance, when you need to blow your nose, what do you ask for? Most likely you ask for a "Kleenex". In reality, there's only one manufacture that can call tissue papers Kleenex, and that would be the company Kleenex. Or take Google for example. When you need to search something online what do you say? Do you say "Google it?" Google's trademark alone is worth an estimated $44 billion.

Types of intellectual property- trademark

Trademarks are a type of intellectual property right that protects the unique identity of your business, that is, it's name.

Similar, yet different, to the paten comes the copyright. Unlike the patent, the copyright is a type of intellectual property right that doesn't protect ideas. Rather, the copyright protects tangible forms of the creation. For instance a copyright is used to protect a lot of media and artistic creations such as music, architectural drawings, art, and even software code.

The owner of the copyright has the exclusive right to sell, publish, and/or reproduce the copyrighted thing.

Trade Secret

The next type of intellectual property right to enter the arena is the trade secret. The trade secret protects proprietary systems, strategies, and formulas that are confidential to a business. These proprietary systems, strategies and formulas allow the creator to gain competitive advantage. Different than a patent, the trade secret derives it's protection from their inherit secret nature.

How, you may ask, is a secret thing protected? Well the most common way to protect trade secrets is with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). An NDA is signed by the party receiving the trade secret prior to getting the secret. This way, the receiving party is held legally obliged not to share the trade secret with anyone.

Fair Use

Put simply, fair use is any legal copying of copyrighted material done for a short duration and only for a "transformative" purpose. This type of use can be done without the copyrighted materials owner's approval. Over the years many legal battles have been fought trying to objectively define "transformative", and the ultimate decision goes to the courts opinion.

Because of the complex and vague description of what qualifies as "transformative" it's best to try and avoid using others peoples works all together, or use them as limited as possible. In the age of social media it's much easier to accidently copy someone else's work whether it be their image, or video.

Catch you on the flip,


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