1. IP Patents
2. Types of Intellectual Property
3. Can Ideas Be Protected or Patented?

IP Patents

If you create something using your mind, including an artistic work, a design, or a commerce-related image, this creation is considered intellectual property (IP). Your intellectual property can be protected using IP patents.

There are a variety of legal protections for IP, including trademarks, patents, and copyrights. These protections are intended to help inventors secure their financial interest in their invention. Balancing the needs of inventors with the interest of the public is the main goal of the IP system, as well as fostering innovation and creativity. The idea behind the IP system is that creative products, such as literature, deserve the same legal protections as physical products.

When IP is created in a university setting, it is usually the result of extensive research. University-related intellectual property is usually either computer software or an invention. Software can be protected using a copyright, and an invention is eligible for a patent.

Types of Intellectual Property

A copyright is a form of legal protection that can be used to secure artistic and literary works. Some of the works that can be protected using a copyright include:

  • Books
  • Computer programs
  • Paintings
  • Sculptures
  • Technical drawings

With a patent, you will have exclusive rights to an invention. Your patent gives you the ability to decide if other people can use your invention while also allowing you to control how your invention is used. In order to be granted these rights, you must make technical information about your invention publicly available.

Applying for a patent is a powerful solution for protecting an invention. Once you have been granted your patent, you can stop other people from using your invention, including manufacturing, selling, or importing your creation. Besides protecting your invention, a patent can help you compete in the marketplace.

There are two primary forms of patents:

  • Design Patent: Used to protect how your invention looks.
  • Utility Patent: Protects how your invention operates and how it is used.

If you wish to protect a good or service offered by your business, you would need to apply for a trademark. Trademarks originated with artisans, who would often add a mark to their product to distinguish it from others in the marketplace.

Industrial designs are considered to be the appearance of an article. Generally, an industrial design can either be two-dimensional or three-dimensional, and will include features such as shapes, patterns, or colors. If a good has a specific geographical origin, it can be marked with a geographical indication. The geographical indication will be used to identify the origin of the good and any qualities provided by its location.

If you want to grant a third party rights to use your IP, you would need a license. If, for instance, you own a patent for a drug and want to grant rights of usage to a pharmaceutical company, a license would serve this purpose. With a license, you will define how the licensee can use your patent. It is also possible to use licenses for forms of intellectual property protected by copyrights.

Can Ideas Be Protected or Patented?

Unfortunately, contrary to what many people believe and what's portrayed in popular media, it is virtually impossible to legally protect an idea.

Patents are used to protect inventions, and copyrights protect artistic and creative expressions, but they do not provide protection for ideas. While having an idea is the first step towards both of these legal protections, the idea must be embodied in some way for the copyright or patent to be granted. If you have an idea, you will need to build on it until you've created something that is legally protectable. By themselves, ideas cannot be patented, which is why you need to turn your idea into an invention.

Another common misconception is that you can get rich selling your idea to a company or an invention. Again, it simply isn't that easy. Almost everyone can come up with an idea, but few people can turn that idea into reality. If you've been able to develop your idea into an invention, you might assume you will need to build a prototype before applying for your patent. Fortunately, this isn't the case. As long as you can describe your invention in such a way that another person could use your description to build and use your invention, you can apply for a patent.

If you need help with applying for IP patents, 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.