Intellectual Property describes any creation or product of the human mind or intellect that the law recognizes and protects from unauthorized use by others, by granting certain exclusive rights to the owners of such creations or products. Intellectual Property law describes the wide body of both federal and state laws that protect these creative property such as writing, music, drawings, paintings, photography, and films. Traditionally, Intellectual Property law comprised of four key categories: Patent Law, Copyright Law, Trademark Law, and Trade Secret Law.
The public policy behind Intellectual Property Laws is primarily to provide an incentive to authors and inventors to produce works for the benefit of the public by granting authors and inventors certain rights to their invention that ensure that authors and inventors are compensated for their efforts.
Patents protect inventions and designs. For instance, devices, machines, functional things, etc. To qualify for Patent protection, a work must meet certain minimum requirements. The length of protection also varies based on the when the work was first published or created.
Copyrights protect artistic expressions. For instance, movies, music, drawings, paintings, software, etc. Copyright Protection takes effect the moment an original work of authorship is fixed in a tangible medium, however, registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office provides additional legal benefits to the copyright owner such as the option to recover certain compensation provided by statute in the event of an infringement.
Trademarks protect business identity. For instance, logos, slogans, brand names etc. Trademarks serve to prevent consumer confusion regarding goods or services they buy and to help Trademark owners protect their goodwill. The degree of protection Trademarks receive depends on several factors including the extent of customer awareness of the trademark, they type of product or service the trademark identifies, and the geographic area that the trademark is used.
Trade Secret Law:
Trade secrets protect proprietary business information. For instance, confidential client/customer list, secret formulas/recipes etc. Trade secrets are not registered with the government or any outside entity. The protection is tied to secrecy and may be lost if the underlying information is disclosed or if the information is independently ascertained. The owner of a trade secret must take reasonable precaution to protect the trade secret.