Types of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) pertains to legal rights over “creations of the mind.” This includes artwork, writing, inventions, designs, ideas, music, and choreography. Within this category exists four main types of IP.


Intellectual PropertyThis has to do with the original authors of both published and unpublished creations. Rights of authorship for these works rests solely with their originator. Filed through the U.S. Copyright office they last for the author’s life plus another 70 years after the author’s death before anyone can reproduce the writing.


These are legal property rights applies to inventions. Distributed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office patents apply processes, machines, manufacturing designs, biological discoveries, and “compositions of matter.”

Trade Secrets

Any company who has practices, designs, formulas, processes, recipes, or ideas they use to leverage their business dealings can file trade secrets. Typically these are hidden by a business instead of having them protected by government policies. One such example of self-protection that companies typically use includes locking this information away in a bank vault. This is commonly done because trade secrets aren’t legally protected. Once someone leaks them to the public, anyone who wants to use them may do so.


Specific brands file trademarks on words, phrases, symbols, logos, designs, and devices they use. This is so they can distinguish themselves from other products in the same industry. Trademarks are typically used for identification purposes. They’re legally protected once you register them with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Other Types of IP

While there are four main types of IP, other, lesser know types also exist. These include:

  • Service Mark: A mark distinguishing between two services
  • Industrial Design: IP right for an object’s visual design
  • Trade Dress: Protection for a product’s illustration or packaging
  • Fair Use: Copying copyrighted material mainly for educational purposes

When you want to file any type of intellectual property you should consult with a lawyer. You’ll find ones who specialize in copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Remember, trade secrets are just that – secrets. Of course, you can also handle the filing of these items on your own, but it takes a lot more work and time to do so.