Intellectual property (IP) is a broad term that encompasses patent, trademark, trade secret, and copyright law. It defines the intangible assets of an individual or a business, from secret recipes and technology to books, movies, logos, and other creative works. Intellectual property rights help define how ownership of these assets can be used, shared, or transferred. Understanding the complexities of IP law and regulations can be daunting, and having experienced counsel is essential to ensure you are compliant with local laws. With a background in the Los Angeles business landscape, UpCounsel’s network of knowledgeable attorneys provide a wide range of services related to intellectual property, from filing applications and litigating disputes to developing strategies for IP governance.

Defining Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights lay out the rules regarding how an individual or business can benefit from the use, commercialization, or transfer of their IP assets. To that end, U.S. laws grant four principle forms of protection for IP: patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret.


Patent law grants exclusive rights to ownership of unique inventions or processes. Patents are issued in the United States by the USPTO. A patented invention must be new, useful, and non-obvious. If patent rights are successfully obtained, the patent holder will gain monopoly rights to the manufacture, use, and sale of their invention within the nation of registration, usually for a period of 20 years. In addition, a patent holder is able to license third parties to use their invention or process.


A trademark is any kind of sign or symbol (e.g., name, logo, graphic) which serves to identify the origin, ownership, or association of goods or services with a particular company, brand, or product. A trademark serves to grant exclusive rights to a certain product or name, establishing market control and guaranteeing customers that goods are made from the company they trust. Trademark protection is only granted if the mark is distinct, protectable, and distinctive.


Copyright law safeguards the form, structure, or expression of creative works, such as books, songs, videos, and other artistic expression. Copyright grants authors or creators of works exclusive right to their own work, granting the creator the sole power to reproduce, modify, and distribute works to the public. Copyright protection is granted for life of the creator plus 70 years, and cannot be transferred to third parties.

Trade Secret

Trade secret law safeguards confidential information, such as customer databases, recipes and formulas, tactics, and strategies, from unauthorized and unpermitted disclosure or use by third parties. To qualify for Trade Secret protection, the holder must make diligent efforts to keep the information confidential. If successful, the trade secret holder will gain rights to exclusive use of the information and may enforce rights under applicable laws (e.g. Defend Trade Secrets Act in the U.S.).

Staying Compliant with Local Regulations

The Los Angeles area has its own unique laws and regulations which must be taken into consideration when handling intellectual property matters. For instance, California Civil Code (CIV) § 3426 outlines employee Intellectual Property Ownership, while CIV § 3425.2 as amended outlines the consequences of employee misconduct with regards to trade secrets. IP law is also specific to industry. For instance, the Software License Agreement is governed by Commercial Code (COM) § 2103. In addition, Los Angeles has specific procedures related to how an individual or company can register a trademark or patent in the area, and also how they must document or prove disclosure of trade secrets in order for protection to be granted.

The experienced attorneys in UpCounsel’s network understand the complexity of IP law in the Los Angeles area and are ready to provide advice and assistance when dealing with these types of matters. They are highly knowledgeable in the regulations that impact the local business landscape and are able to help create effective strategies for protecting IP as well as litigate disputes.


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