Intellectual property is protected primarily by:

  • Patent (exclusively federal law under the US Constitution)
  • Trademarks (common law, state law, and federal law)
  • Copyrights (exclusively federal law under the US Constitution)
  • Secrets (state law)

What protection does a US patent provide?
Generally, you have the right to stop others from making, using, selling or offering for sale the patented invention in the US for the life of the patent.
What is Patentable?
Useful devices and manufactured articles Methods—manufacturing or business Chemical compositions Design of an article Computer programs Organisms (in some cases) Asexually reproduced plants What is generally Not Patentable? Concepts or ideas Laws of nature Obvious improvements Works of art Devices known to public Useless devices Perpetual motion

See PATENTS section for more information.


What is a trademark (& servicemark)?
A trademark is name or design used in conjunction with a product that indicates the source or maker, for example, “APPLE” used in conjunction with computers. A servicemark is a name or design used in conjunction with a service, for example, “VISA” in conjunction with credit services. The term “trademark” is used to describe both.
How are trademark rights obtained?
Trademark rights may be acquired by first use of a mark in commerce in conjunction with a good or service in a geographical market area. Federal registration of a mark expands the geographic market area to the entire nation
What protection does trademark provide?
In general, you can prevent others from using confusingly similar marks on similar products or services in the same geographical market area.

See TRADEMARKS section for more information.



What are copyrights?
Copyright protects original works of authorship that are fixed in any tangible medium of expression, including writings, musical compositions or performances, paintings and sculptures, movies and photos, sound recording, and computer programs. Some copyright rights exist from the time of creation of the work; greater rights are acquired by applying copyright notice on the work and by registering the work with the Copyright Office.

See COPYRIGHT section for more information.



What secrets may be protected?
Personal and business secrets may be protected by contract. Business secrets are afforded added protection by state law.

See SECRETS section for more information.


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