The 4 types of intellectual property protection and how they apply to you

The 4 types of intellectual property protection and how they apply to you

July 31, 2022
Walker Weitzel
IP Basics

Intellectual Property Protection

A guide to intellectual property protection

There are several ways of protecting your intellectual property. The method of choice will depend on what type of IP you need to protect.

Types of intellectual property include:

  • Trademarks
  • Copyrights
  • Patents
  • Trade Secrets

Almost every business in the United States owns some form of intellectual property, sometimes without even being aware of its ownership. Businesses should take steps to protect their intellectual property to maintain, develop, and profit from it.

Forms And Examples Of Intellectual Property

Trade secrets

Trade secrets are economically or commercially valuable information that businesses have developed. This may be manufacturing processes, recipes, customer lists, databases, or other information that is valuable by nature of its being secret. For example, trade formulas, recipes, manufacturing processes, and suppliers for key ingredients can all be referred to as trade secrets for a business. Trade secrets are created when businesses take proactive measures to protect the secrecy of valuable information. Some protective measures can include restricting access to the information by keeping it limited to only several people, r keeping it confidential with minimum documentation and under protected passwords and files.


A trademark is an identifying word, symbol, phrase, or combination of all these to represent a company’s product or services. Similar to trade secrets, trademarks do not have to be registered to be protected. Their protection is created when the trademark is used when selling the product or service. It identifies your brand and protects against counterfeits. But trademark protection is usually limited to specific geographical areas or localities if it is not registered.

When a trademark is registered with the state or federal government, it extends the protection beyond the local areas. For example, state registration protection extends to the entire state of California.

An application for a state trademark can be applied at:

An application for a federal trademark that protects all 50 states can be applied at:


Copyrights refer to the protection of original works, for example, software, menus, videos, sculpture, and novels. Copyright protection is obtained when the work is recorded in physical form, for example, recording an audio or writing it on paper. 

Copyright registration provides additional protection and benefits that give statutory damage benefits and recovery of attorney fees when an infringement case is filed. Copyright registration can be obtained by filling out the form at: and paying a $30 fee.


A patent gives the owner of intellectual property exclusive legal rights of ownership for a limited number of years. It prevents others from using, selling, or marketing the patent for profit or any other purpose. 

As compared to other forms of intellectual property, getting a patent is more expensive and cannot be created by putting it on paper or using it for identifying goods and services. Patents must be registered and approved by the Patent Office (USPTO). They provide businesses legal protection, giving them a competitive advantage that prevents other businesses from using their patent.  

A patent can be obtained by submitting an application with the USPTO at:

Patent registration costs can be expensive, though we work to keep our fees as reasonable as possible. It is important to get started on the patenting process early, because if the business waits too long to file a patent, the protection may be unavailable. 

Each type of intellectual property protection requirement is different from the other and pertinent to each individual case. Therefore, to satisfactorily meet them and protect intellectual property rights, it is advisable to hire a qualified attorney for assistance. Even after the protection is obtained, businesses must take the necessary measures to maintain, develop and profit from their intellectual property.

This article is intended as a very brief primer on the types of intellectual property that exist, and we will dive deeper into each of these topics in other posts. However, please always feel free to reach out directly if you have any further questions that I may answer in person. You can reach me at or by scheduling a time to speak via phone or video on my contact page.

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