What Are the 4 Types of Intellectual Property Rights?

If you have an idea or have created something unique, you must protect it to ensure no one uses your idea or creation without your permission. The best way to do this is to register your intellectual property.


Depending on the type of your intellectual property, you can use any of the following property protections to prevent others from copying your idea or using your inventions for personal gains without obtaining your consent.


If you have questions, we have answers! To make sure that your IP is properly protected, make sure you heed the advice of a business lawyer in Sonoma County.


Trade Secrets


Trade secrets are specific information that give a business a competitive edge in its niche. Typical examples include secret recipes, secret client lists, secret formula, and search engine algorithms. If some other business acquires and uses a trade secret, the original holder may lose their competitive advantage.


A trade secret holder does not have to register their trade secret in order to prevent other businesses from using it. If a business uses your trade secret without your permission, you can file a petition in a court, requesting it to direct the business to stop profiting from your trade secret.




A trademark can be a word, symbol, logo, phrase, design, or a combination of these things that a business uses to distinguish its goods or services from those of other businesses.


Unlike patents and copyrights, trademarks do not expire and hence, can be held indefinitely. Although, a trademark should be renewed every 10 years. Registering a trademark is not mandatory.




Patents are used to protect inventions or discoveries that are unique, new, and provide a new way of doing things. A patent can be filed to protect a product or process.


Patents cannot be held indefinitely. A patent allows its owner to sell their invention for a limited period of time, while preventing others from selling, making or using it during the period. Patent protection is usually granted for 20 years from the filing date of the application.




Contrary to popular notion, copyrights and patents are not one and the same. A copyright gives its owner the exclusive right to copy and distribute an original work of authorship and can be a musical, choreographic, artistic, audiovisual, literary or dramatic work that was the result of the creator’s independent effort.


Many businesses use copyrights to protect software and architectural works. Copyright protection is automatic, which means that once you create something unique, you do not have to register your creation in order to protect it.


Many businesses and individuals still register their creations. Registering your creation will allow you to:


  • File a lawsuit to enforce your copyright
  • Prove that your copyright is valid
  • Claim damages and attorney’s fees


Having a hard time deciding which intellectual property protection you need? Let The Law Office of Stephen M. Beckwith help. Stephen M. Beckwith is a top-rated business lawyer in Sonoma County. He goes above and beyond to protect his clients’ rights. Book your appointment today, call (707) 526-5454.