Some intellectual property only requires one type of protection, while others may require two or more methods in order to secure their full economic benefit. The four primary ways about Protect Your Intellectual Property.
Copyright protection includes literary works of fiction and nonfiction, paintings and drawings, sculptures, musical scores and recordings, video recordings, computer code, emails you write, and dance choreography. A copyright prevents others from copying, or duplicating, your work unless they have your permission. If someone illegally uses your work, you can bring a lawsuit against the infringing party. The duration of copyright protection is the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years. A work is copyrighted as soon as it is created. Two ways to help secure your copyright are to place a copyright notice on all copies of the work, and to register your copyright. Registration is not required, but if someone illegally copies your work, you may have a more difficult time proving your copyright in court if it is not registered.
Trademark protection applies to a word, phrase, picture, logo, or combination of these that identifies the source of goods. In essence, it is the mark that uniquely identifies a company. If services are being sold instead of goods, it is known as a service mark. Trademarks and service marks are also sometimes referred to as trade names.
Trademark protection prevents others from using the mark, or a similar mark that is likely to be confused with your mark. Applying for a trademark requires stating the type, or class, of business in which the mark will be used. Protection typically only prevents others in the same class of business from using the mark. Also, to maintain a registered trademark, every 10 years you will need to file proof that you are still using the mark.
Patent protection is available for inventions. The most clearly understood example is some type of new machine, but patents can also exist for new materials, new processes, or new combinations or modifications of existing patents.
These are called utility patents and include patents on computer program code and algorithms. Design patents address the artistic shape or ornamentation of functional items (such as the unique shape of a piece of furniture), and plant patents cover certain types of new plant varieties created by breeders.
Keeping a trade secret is the least secure way of protecting intellectual property, but sometimes it works. The important concept here is the word “secret." It is simply the idea that your creation cannot be easily figured out by others, and you can keep control over its economic value as long as you don't tell anyone the details.
If you file for a patent, you will need to disclose the details of your invention in the application process and it will no longer be a secret. Similarly, if you register computer code as a copyright, you will also need to publicly disclose it.