Intellectual property law protects the rights relating to original creations of the mind, including artistic and written works, inventions, and images, words and designs used in commerce. This area of law includes copyrighting, patents, trade secrets and trademarks. The following sections give detailed information about the different types of intellectual property.
Copyrighting is governed by federal statutes and protects original works of authorship, such as books, music, films, paintings and software.
Like copyrights, patents are governed by federal statutes. Inventors who are granted patents have exclusive rights to make, use or sell their invention.
Trademarks are governed by both federal and state law and are words, phrases, logos or pictures associated with a commercial enterprise. They give businesses a way to distinguish their products and services from those of competitors.
Unlike copyrights, trademarks and patents, trade secrets are not protected by federal law. Most states have either adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act or formed laws that give trade secret protection. Trade secrets are confidential information giving a company a competitive or economic advantage over a competitor. Disclosure of trade secrets can be illegal.