Business Guide to
Intellectual Property

"Intellectual property" is a phrase that refers to anything original that you can create, whether it's tangible or intangible. The point of classifying a concept as intellectual property is for creators and inventors to be able to receive the fame and financial compensation that they deserve for designing something that others will use and profit from. Registering intellectual property is in the public interest as well: Many inventions make our lives easier, and letting people protect what they create helps to motivate them to make new things. There are many types of intellectual property protections, such as patents, copyrights, industrial design rights, and trademarks.

Patents

Patents are the best example of a tradeoff between the inventor's financial interest and the public good. When you invent something and receive a patent, it means that you have exclusive rights to your invention for a limited period of time. During the term of the patent, the patent holder is the only individual who can replicate their invention or allow someone else to do so, meaning that they're the only one who can profit from their idea. The standard duration for a patent is 20 years. After the patent expires, members of the public can use the design to make the same invention without the consent of the original inventor. The three categories of patents are utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Most patents are utility patents, which are issued for inventions and processes.

Copyright

Copyright protects tangible literary, poetic, musical, or theatrical works. Only the copyright holder can reproduce or authorize a reproduction of the copyrighted work. Copyrights last not only for a person's lifetime but for a period of 70 years after their death. There are many laws that prevent plagiarism and copyright infringement, which occurs when someone creates an unauthorized copy of copyrighted work. After a copyright expires, the work enters into the public domain and anyone can reproduce it.

Industrial Design Rights

Industrial design rights protect two-dimensional and three-dimensional designs that have a novel aesthetic purpose. Regardless of whether the object itself has value, the industrial design rights recognize the ornamental and artistic value intrinsic to the design. For example, the iconic design of old Coca-Cola bottles is protected by industrial design rights; they didn't invent the glass bottle, but they did create a unique design for one.

Trademarks

Trademarks are symbols, designs, or words that let you set your products apart from similar products sold, marketed, or manufactured by another business. Trademark protection usually lasts for only ten years, but you can renew it before it expires. Making the decision to renew a trademark requires a cost-benefit analysis as to whether the trademark and its use are more valuable than the cost to register it. Usually, a trademark protects a design or a phrase, but people have also trademarked signature scents, unique packaging, or specific color combinations.

Plant Variety Rights

Plant variety rights are a special kind of intellectual property rights for plant breeders. New plants registered under PVRs can be bred and reproduced by the public, but the first breeder has the right to collect royalties for the sale of the plants.

Trade Dress

Trade dress refers to the packaging and marketing of products. Sometimes, a business will market its products in a distinctive fashion that separates them from all others. The business has the choice to protect its intellectual property through a trademark or a trade dress.

Geographic Indications

Some products are superior to others in part because they come from certain geographic regions that have established a reputation for producing a specific high-quality product. A geographic indication is a protected use of the name of a location that tells buyers that the product has the desired qualities specific to that particular place.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are any form of information that derives value from its secrecy, has been reasonably protected and kept confidential by the holder of the trade secret, and is not publicly accessible or commonly known. Famous trade secrets include the KFC fried chicken recipe and the formula for Coca-Cola.