Types of Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights protect unique work that results from someone’s mental labor. They include patents, copyrights and trademarks.


They grant an inventor or creator a limited monopoly on their creation/invention for a set period of time. These protections help entice businesses to invest in research and development. They also encourage competition and innovation.


Copyright protects literary and artistic works, inventions, designs, symbols and names. It is a limited statutory monopoly that gives the author exclusive rights over the use of his creation for a specific period of time. It is the most widespread of the four main types of intellectual property rights.

It requires a relatively modest level of creativity to qualify for copyright protection. For example, a creative work might consist of words written on paper or stored digitally, music or sound recordings, paintings or sculptures, a computer program or even a database. Unlike a patent, copyrights do not expire.

The goal of the intellectual property system is to provide incentives for inventors and creators to invest their time and resources into producing new ideas and products. It is often thought that a society with protected intellectual property rights will be more efficient and productive than one without them. This is based on the utilitarian-pragmatic argument that people should be given some form of ownership over their labor and other creations so they have an incentive to produce more.

In the context of business, intellectual property can be a very valuable asset. Businesses need to be careful not to violate someone else’s intellectual property rights in order to stay competitive. There was a highly publicized case in 2017 in which Waymo sued Uber over their self-driving car technology. Waymo claimed that Uber stole their intellectual property by stealing proprietary information and using it in their own self-driving car program.


The protection of a trademark gives the registrant exclusive rights for a period of time over a specific name, symbol or design that distinguishes a company’s goods and services from those of its competitors. Trademarks can be used to protect words, sounds, colors and other aspects of a product or service, and are governed by the Lanham Act.

Copyright protects the rights of authors of literary and artistic works, including books and other written works, musical compositions, paintings, sculpture and other creative arts, as well as film and computer programs. The main social purpose of copyright and related rights is to encourage creativity by giving the author an exclusive right over the use of their work for a limited period of time.

Patents are designed to encourage the development and transfer of technology, especially industrial products. They give the inventor/creator the exclusive right to commercialise their invention for a limited period of time in return for the investment of their time, money and effort into research and development.

Intellectual property is often seen as the backbone of many businesses and provides a means for gaining an edge in the marketplace. It’s important to understand the different types of intellectual property and how best to protect it. Discover how to register and enforce your copyright, trademark, or patent.


Patents are a powerful tool for protecting intellectual property. They provide exclusive rights to inventors for a period of time, allowing them to recover research and development costs and profit from the production of their inventions/creations. This allows companies to invest in new products and innovate for the future, but it also ensures that their investment will not be misused or unfairly exploited.

In order to obtain a patent, an inventor must file an application with the relevant government agency. This application must include a detailed description of the invention, as well as one or more claims that define its scope of protection. The specific requirements vary between countries.

Generally, a patent can be granted for any invention that is novel, involves an inventive step and has industrial application. However, there are some exceptions. For example, a patent cannot be obtained for a plant variety or for methods of treatment of the human body by surgery or therapy. Patents can be contested on the grounds that they are invalid, but the requirements for doing so again vary between countries.

The original owner of a patent is usually the inventor, but if she works for an employer then they will normally have ownership by virtue of their employment contract. This can lead to confusion over who owns an invention if it is made during the course of work, and it is important to check whether or not you own intellectual property created whilst working for someone else.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are confidential information that is not public and that provides a company with a competitive advantage. The term “trade secret” covers a wide variety of confidential information, from recipes and physical devices to business strategies and manufacturing techniques. It is protected by law only if it is (1) sufficiently valuable to the owner of the business to justify the expense of protecting it; (2) not publicly disclosed (including in court filings, trade shows and legal proceedings); (3) subject to reasonable steps taken by the rightful holder of the information to keep it secret; and (4) not used or disclosed by anyone outside the company without its consent.

Healthcare practices must protect their intellectual property by requiring employees to sign confidentiality agreements, restricting who has access to the information and regularly meeting with staff to discuss what should remain off limits to competitors and customers. When a practice discovers that its confidential information is being disclosed, it can apply for a court order to stop the disclosure and seek damages, attorneys’ fees and a possible injunction.

Supporters of intellectual property rights argue that by exchanging limited exclusive rights for inventions and creative works, society and the patentee/author mutually benefit. However, opponents of intellectual property law point to research that suggests patents and copyrights can actually reduce innovation and increase costs, as well as the moral argument that creators should be allowed to capture the full social value of their work.