Updated October 6,2020:

Intellectual Property Examples

Intellectual property is a very complicated idea, and covers a wide range of creations. The best way to understand the different types of intellectual property is by learning the different methods for registering this property. Essentially, anything that you create using your mind is intellectual property.

Intellectual property examples are:

  • Art and Designs
  • Literary works
  • Music
  • Symbols, images, and names used for businesses

Intellectual property is that which has been created by the human mind, either intellectual or creative. Intellectual property is considered an intangible asset. Owners of intellectual property have exclusive rights that are protected against unauthorized use for certain periods of time that are determined by the type of intellectual property in question.

The United States Copyright Office, as well as the United States Patent and Trademark Office, oversee all intellectual property rights in the United States. The World Intellectual Property Organization is the officiating entity for all participating countries worldwide.

Intellectual Property Protection

Entrepreneurs and business owners need to understand the basics of intellectual property (IP) law to best protect hard-earned creations and ideas from unfair competition. Intellectual property includes distinctive items that someone has created and ones that give the owner an economic benefit.

An owner may seek professional experience from an intellectual property attorney to help the company plan for success and avoid theft of ideas, designs, and other concepts. Owners should also investigate international patents as well as those registered in the United States.

Since filing and refiling IP applications can get expensive, and waste time if done incorrectly, the owner must determine what to protect when it comes to IP. The owner must also decide which ideas fall under which specific protection option and file as quickly as possible to reduce chances of losing out on protection.

Protection of intellectual property examples are:

  • Copyright
  • Trademark
  • Patent
  • Trade Secrets

Filing for intellectual property protections as soon as you can is the best way to secure rights to your idea. Failing to quickly file your application may result in you losing the ability to protect your creation.

If you are applying for a patent, you should be sure to research patents registered both domestically and internationally.

Intellectual property rights also cover something known as moral rights. Basically, moral rights apply to how a work gets published. Moral rights allow you to publish your work anonymously, but also require maintaining the integrity of your creation. This means that when published, your work cannot be:

  1. Altered
  2. Mutilated
  3. Distorted

A utility model is another form of IP protection that provides similar rights to a patent. When you have a utility model, you can prevent other people from using your invention for commercial purposes for a set period of time. Like patents, utility models are only valid for a limited amount of time, and you will also have the ability to license the use of your invention.

IP protections also cover database rights. A database refers to reference materials collected in either physical or electronic form. Copyright laws protect databases.

Other forms of intellectual property protections include:

  • Industrial design rights: Protects an object's visual design used in the manufacturing of the object.
  • Indigenous intellectual property: Provides indigenous peoples the right to defend the knowledge of their culture that could be considered intellectual property.
  • Plant breeder's rights: Gives plant breeders the right to protect harvesting and propagation of a new plant species they have created.

Copyright protects intellectual property of a creative or artistic nature. Copyright often lasts 50 to 70 years after the creator's death. In some countries, copyright must be registered to become effective. In the United States, copyright is established as soon as a work is created, and in the case of software or a digital drawing, even as soon as it is saved to the hard drive.

Copyrights protect original works of authorship. Intellectual property examples of copyrights are:

  • literary works
  • music
  • dramatic works
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • sculptural
  • pictorial, and graphic works
  • sound recordings
  • artistic works
  • architectural works
  • computer software

With copyright protection, the holder has the exclusive rights to modify, distribute, perform, create, display, and copy the work. In order to qualify under copyright laws, the work must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as words on a piece of paper or music notes written on a sheet.

Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney fees in a copyright infringement suit, so the creator may want to consider registering the work through the U.S. Copyright Office.

The creator can register a copyright online by completing an application, submitting a nonrefundable fee of $35, and sending in a nonreturnable copy of the work. The average processing time for e-filed copyright applications is 2 1/2 months and a little more than 5 1/2 months for paper filing.

Copyright duration depends on several factors, but generally, for works created after Jan. 1, 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years and is nonrenewable.

All expressions of creativity and original thought are protected by copyright law. A copyright may be registered with the Library of Congress Copyright Office. However, even if the creators of such an expression do not register a copyright, they will still hold the copyright and all the rights that go with it.

What Is a Trademark or a Service Mark?

A trademark is any special mark which differentiates goods and services of one entity from its competitors. Intellectual property examples of trademarks are slogans, logo, colors or even sounds.

Trademarks may sometimes overlap with copyrights. For example, it is possible for a logo to be registered as a trademark, and also be copyrightable as an artistic creation.

Trademarks may protect designs, words, or other elements which are not considered copyrightable. They may be protected under the common law and the Lanham Act even when a trademark is not registered.

In order to qualify for patent protection, the mark must be distinctive. Before registering a trademark, you should conduct a search of federal and state databases to make sure a similar trademark doesn't already exist.

The trademark search can help reduce the amount of time and money a company could spend on using a mark that is already registered and trademarked. To apply, the company must have a clear representation of the mark, as well as an identification of the class of goods or services to which the mark will apply.

The company can submit an online application, and filing fees vary according to several factors, including the form type and the number of classes of goods or services. Trademarks expire after 10 years, and renewal terms are 10 years.

Before receiving approval from the USPTO, companies. and people can use the TM symbol to indicate ownership of the mark. Upon approval, the company can legally add the registered trademark symbol (®) to the company's mark.

The TM symbol doesn't hold any legal weight but can indicate to other businesses or people in the industry that the company intends to claim the mark. To register a trademark, the company can file a "use" application after using the mark and file an "intent to use" application before using the mark.

If a foreign application exists, a trademark holder might be able to rely on that application for use in the United States. Filing an application is complex, so most applicants hire an attorney who specializes in trademarks.

What Is a Patent?

Unlike the creative property protected by copyrights or trademarks, practical designs and inventions are only protected when a patent is granted by the USPTO.

A patent grants property rights on an invention, allowing the patent holder to exclude others from making, selling, or using the invention. Inventions allow many businesses to be successful because inventions develop new or better processes or products that offer a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

To qualify for a utility patent, the invention must be novel, nonobvious, and have some usefulness. Novel means new and not known by anyone else, while nonobvious means that it can't be immediately obvious to someone having ordinary skills in the industry.

With patent protection, the patent holder can take legal action against anyone who copies the patented invention, design, or discovery. Without legal protection, anyone can use similar designs, products, and processes without risk.

In fact, if a person doesn't file for patent protection on the invention within 12 months of releasing in a public setting, the opportunity to patent the invention will be gone. Other companies or individuals can also file for a patent on an inventor's idea, taking away the inventor's chance to do so first.

When reviewing patent applications and violations, the USPTO will usually default to the individual who submitted the application first, since proving who used something first is nearly impossible.

Before filing for a patent, the inventor should determine who will own the idea. Some companies file for patents on the company's protected inventions, but if an employee came up with the idea, the individual may be granted holder of the patent.

If the business owns the patent, the business must protect the patent with the company by having employees involved in the invention process sign an agreement stating that the idea belongs to the company.

To maintain the force of the patent, the inventor must pay fees due at 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 years after the patent grant. The total amount of maintenance fees for a small entity, such as an independent inventor, is $4,430, while for others the total is $8,860.

When spending considerable money on a product, applying for a patent is one of the only ways that pharmaceutical companies can protect the company's investments. Without a patent, any other company could manufacture a replica of the drug. In March 2011, the U.S. Senate passed The America Invents Act, one of the most significant changes to patent law in the last century.

The final details of the laws are still under review, but the purpose is to change what makes an idea patentable. The act also increases the protections for the first person or company to file for a patent. Critics of the act believe that the regulation may be biased toward larger companies with more funds available to patent ideas quickly. Those on the opposite side believe that patents and other forms of protection restrict free trade and economic growth

But intellectual property protection laws are still in place and designed to protect inventors, business owners, and creators. Intellectual property examples in this category are utility patents for machines and plant patents for completely new varieties of plants, among others.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is a formula, process, device, or other business information that companies keep private to give a business advantage over the business' competitors. Intellectual property examples of common trade secrets include:

  • manufacturing processes
  • client lists
  • ingredients
  • systems
  • sales methods
  • launch strategies
  • business plans

Unlike the other types of intellectual property, a business can't obtain protection by registering the trade secret. Protection lasts only as long as the business takes the necessary steps to control disclosure and use of the information.

One of the most famous examples of trade secrets is the original formula for Coca Cola. The company claims that it is only ever known only to two people at a time and they are not allowed to travel together. If one dies, the survivor is required to choose a successor and reveal the secret to that person.

Even the names of the two people who know the secret is unknown. The single written copy of the formula was once used as collateral for a loan. But it was put into a vault that is located on the grounds of Atlanta's World of Coca-Cola December 8, 2011. It remains there today, and the vault is on display.

Businesses use nondisclosure agreements, restricted access to confidential information, post-employment restrictive covenants, and other security practices to maintain trade secrets. Protecting the company is the best way to make sure that no one else can use the company's distinctive inventions, works, marks, or other ideas.

Physical and digital protection of ideas is also necessary, so you should track who has access and limit who can get into important databases. Protection of intellectual property often comes at a high cost and takes much time, so make sure your time and money are worth the investment.

Right of Publicity

The right of publicity is a type of intellectual property protection that is available to companies. Basically, right of publicity means that a company has the ability to control how other people use intellectually property related to the company, including:

  1. The company's name.
  2. The company's likeness.
  3. The company's persona.

For example, a company can prevent other people from promoting a service using a photo of the company's name. If the company wishes, it can give other people permission to use its name or likeness.

Unfortunately, the right of publicity is not recognized in all jurisdictions. Additionally, some locations do respect this right, but do not have a specific law related to publicity. Instead, several other laws get pieced together to provide a right to publicity:

  1. Right to privacy laws.
  2. Trademark laws.
  3. Truth-in-advertising laws.

Geographical Indications

Intellectual property rights are constantly changing. For instance, ‘geographical indications' is a relatively new term when it comes to intellectual property. Geographical indications are the names of actual locations that are linked to a product. For example, Champagne is an actual city, but most consumers think of the alcoholic beverage produced here instead of the physical town.

Because the concept is so difficult for many to comprehend, geographic indications have just recently become a part of international intellectual property negotiations. Appellation of origin was the term for this idea that was once used by the WIPO. Basically, appellation of origin means using a geographic location to label a product. While they may seem similar, geographic indications and trademarks are actually very different. Instead of associating a product with a single company, geographic indications are used to indicate all products that come from a specific region.

Industrial Designs and Integrated Circuits

Intellectual property protections can vary from country to country. For example, if you want to protect an industrial design in the United States, you would need to apply for a design patent. In other countries, there are specific laws that cover industrial designs. Countries with these provisions include:

  1. France
  2. Japan
  3. United Kingdom

Protections for integrated circuits are related to industrial design protections and covered by the Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect on Integrated Circuits (IPIC Treaty). The IPIC Treaty was negotiated and passed in Washington, DC. The World Trade Organization (WTO) also provides protections for integrated circuits in the TRIPS agreement.

Both the IPIC Treaty and the TRIPS agreement cover the specific design of circuits. The reason for the protection of the design of circuits is that creating an integrated circuit is very costly and time-consuming.

Objective and Financial Impact of IP Laws

The primary purpose of intellectual property laws is to promote innovation. Giving inventors the ability to protect their ideas allows them to freely create without fear that someone else will capitalize on their efforts. These protections are also meant to benefit society by encouraging inventors and artists to reveal their work.

When IP laws were originally formed, the idea was that inventors were not fully incentivized to release their creations, as there was no guarantee that they would benefit from this revelation, either socially or monetarily. In a variety of ways, IP laws allow intellectual property the same treatment as physical property. IP laws have also had a big financial impact, as they provide a strong motivation to invest in idea development.

Obtaining patents is now a big moneymaker, and companies are increasingly spending money on researching and developing inventions that may be eligible for a patent. By some estimates, investment in developing ideas adds $5 trillion to the United States economy. It is also estimated that 18 million Americans are employed as a direct result of this investment into inventions.

Protection Against Unfair Competition

Intellectual property examples that are protected against unfair competition fall into two categories: Counterfeiting and Piracy. Counterfeiting refers to the fakes and illegal copies of products, such as knock-offs of name brand watches or handbags. Illegally copying copyrighted material, such as music or movies, is referred to as piracy.

Intellectual Property Theft

Depending on the situation, intellectual property theft could be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Regardless of the severity, theft of intellectual property examples of this type would be an infringement of patent, copyright or trademark rights, or the misappropriation of trade secrets.

Counterfeiting of trademarks and copyrights can be a very lucrative practice. For example, it was estimated that in 2011, counterfeiting accounted for 7 percent of trade across the globe and totaled $600 billion. The term patent infringement means that someone has sold or used a patented invention without the permission of the person who owns the patent.

In the United States, patent infringement cases are a matter of civil law. It's common for civil litigation involving patents to involve a discussion of the patent's scope, meaning the amount of protection that it provides. Trademark infringement occurs when someone uses a trademark that is confusingly similar to someone else's registered mark.

Trademark owners have protection by some common law rights, but fully enforcing trademark rights requires state and federal registration. If you own a trademark and someone else has infringed upon your mark, you would usually address the issue with a civil lawsuit. If your trademark infringement case involves the trade of counterfeit products, criminal penalties may also apply.

Copyright infringement is when some else displays, produces, or distributes your work without your approval. This type of intellectual property theft can also occur if someone has produced a work that is derivative of your copyrighted work or holds an unapproved performance of your work. Copyright infringement involving copying or selling music or movies is commonly called piracy.

While copyright infringement has historically been a civil matter, criminal penalties can also apply, thanks to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) passed in 2011.

Works for Hire

When a person or company hires a designer, computer programmer, artist or other independent contractor, the party that is hiring will own whatever work is created, including all rights under any trademark, patent or copyright. Intellectual property examples would include books, music, inventions and more.

The only way that this will be upheld in a court, however, is if there is a written agreement which clearly states that the work in question was specifically work for hire.

Intellectual property examples may take many forms. However, the one thing they all have in common is that they should all be protected. Unfortunately, the processes tend to be somewhat complex; there could be significant consequences for not completing them properly. That is why it is highly recommended that you seek legal advice to obtain maximum protection for your intellectual property.

If you need help with intellectual property, you can post your legal needs on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.