Intellectual Property Examples

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

What is Copyright?

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 an exact 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 on 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.

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.

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.

Legal Advice is Recommended

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, Stripe, and Twilio.