Intellectual Property (IP)

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What Is Intellectual Property?

Intangible assets include patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, trade dress, know-how, and business methods. They are created through innovation and creativity. In other words, they are not physical objects but rather ideas and creations that can be used to make products and services. IP is an important part of any company's value chain because it provides competitive advantages in terms of brand recognition, product differentiation, cost savings, market share, and sales growth.


A patent protects an invention that has not been put into practice yet. It gives the inventor exclusive rights to make, sell, import, and use their invention for 20 years (usually) after filing the application. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) determines whether an invention is patentable based on its novelty, utility, and nonobviousness.

When a third party makes use of the patent without the approval of the patent holder, it is called infringement.


A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, colour combination, sound, smell, or any other element used to identify and distinguish goods or services. Trademarks can be applied to products, packaging, websites, logos, slogans, and more. A trademark owner may register a trademark with the USPTO to prevent others from using similar marks.

A trade name is usually a short form of a corporate name or a "fictitious" business name. For example, "McDonald's" is the trade name of McDonald's Corporation. Trade names are often easier to remember than full corporate names. However, if you want to protect your brand identity as a whole, then registering a trademark is necessary.


A copyright protects original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, motion picture, sound recording, architectural, and sculpture works.

The copyright law grants authors the right to control how their work is used. Copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. This means that the author has the exclusive right to create derivative works and distribute them to the public.

The author also has the exclusive right to perform, display, and publish their work publicly. If someone uses copyrighted material without permission, this is called piracy.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is an information that is kept confidential and proprietary. Companies keep trade secrets to maintain a competitive advantage over competitors. A trade secret can take many forms: product designs, formulas, manufacturing processes, marketing strategies, customer lists, and more. In general, if you take steps to keep a trade secret, then you will have a valid claim against anyone who uses or discloses it without your permission.

Trade secrets may be misappropriated when employees steal trade secrets from their employers. Employees who have access to trade secrets should not disclose them to anyone else.

Trade Dress

Trade dress refers to a company's overall image, including its logo, colours, fonts, layout, and advertising materials. Trade dress includes the look and feel of a product or service. It is important to protect trade dress because it helps consumers recognize its products and services.

In addition, companies spend money on developing trade dresses to help differentiate themselves from their competitors.


  • Patents protect inventions and new ways of doing things.
  • Trademarks are used to identify products and brands.
  • Copyrights protect creative works like books, movies, music, and software.
  • Trade secrets are information that is kept secret from others.
  • Trade dresses are unique logos, shapes, colours, and packaging that companies use to distinguish their goods from those of competitors.

Disclaimer: We are not a law firm and are not acting as your attorney. The information contained on the Site is general legal information for quality certification exam preparation. It should not be considered as legal advice to be applied to any specific factual situation. For any legal advice, you should consult a lawyer.

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