4 Types of Intellectual Property

Updated: Feb 24

There are 4 types of intellectual property that you, as a business owner, need to be aware of.

What is Intellectual Property

Intellectual property ("IP") refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

IP is your creative currency. It includes your business name, slogan, the unique color you created to distinguish your business, the images you capture or create, a process, and much more.

Protection of your IP is how you secure your creative currency and start to harness the value of such assets. Our government offers rights to the people who create and express themselves in unique ways by allowing individuals and businesses to protect their IP.

Types of Intellectual Property

The four types of IP are:

1. Trademarks

2. Copyright

3. Trade Secrets

4. Patents


A trademark is a source identifier. It communicates to the consuming public the source of the goods and/or services provided. A trademark can be words, phrases, symbols, designs or any unique combination that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods and services. A trademark includes:

  • Business Name

  • Logo

  • Slogan

  • Unique Fabric Pattern

  • Unique Product Design

  • Unique Store Appearance

  • Font

  • and more


A copyright gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights to print, publish, perform, film or record literary, artistic or musical material and provides the creator with the authorization to determine if it may be used by others (licensing).

To be a protected work, the work needs to be original to the author and fixed in a tangible form of expression. It doesn’t have to be a totally new concept; however, it must have some form of original creativity. You can protect the following via copyright registration:

  • Books

  • eBooks

  • Online Courses

  • Newspaper Articles

  • Blog Post

  • Written Speeches

  • Website Content

  • Social Media Post and Captions

  • Pictorial Graphic

  • Photographs

  • Paintings

  • Audiovisual Works

  • Sound Recordings

  • Podcast Episodes

  • and more

Trade Secrets

Trade Secrets protect information that makes a business unique. A trade secret is:

(1) information that has either actual or potential independent economic value by virtue of not being generally known,

(2) has value to others who cannot legitimately obtain the information, and

(3) is subject to reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.

A Trade Secret can be almost anything from chemical formulas or food recipes, product designs, customer and contact lists, pricing schedules, manufacturing techniques, and marketing strategies, and serum formulations, just as a few examples. You may be able to protect your business information via Trade Secret if:

  1. information is of value;

  2. information is not generally known;

  3. the information would be valuable to others; and

  4. you've taken steps within your business to keep such information secret.

An example of a Trade Secret is the Coca-Cola formula. Coca-Cola's formula is valuable to Coca Cola, its not generally known, others would find the formula highly valuable, and only a few people know the formula.

Quick note - Trade Secrets are important to all businesses no matter the size. Small, medium and large companies can all benefit from trade secrets.


A patent is a right granted to an inventor by the federal government that permits the inventor to exclude others from making, selling or using the invention for a period of time. The patent system is designed to encourage inventions that are unique and useful to society. Congress was given the power to grant patents in the Constitution, and federal statutes and rules govern patents. There are 3 different types of patents:

  • Utility Patents: The most common type of patent, these are granted to new machines, chemicals, and processes.

  • Design Patents: Granted to protect the unique appearance or design of manufactured objects, such as the surface ornamentation or overall design of the object.

  • Plant Patents: Granted for the invention and asexual reproduction of new and distinct plant varieties, including hybrids.

Now that you know the different types of intellectual property, perform an IP audit of your business. List out all your trademarks, works that may qualify for copyright registration, information that may qualify as a Trade Secret, and anything you invented either entirely as a new item or anything you've simply developed to make your job a little easier. Then list out what steps you've taken to protect each item listed. If you haven't taken any steps towards protecting your IP, reach out to us. Within a 20 minute call we can put you on a track towards brand protection.

140 views0 comments