You’ve built a better mousetrap, or you’ve written the great American novel…or maybe you’ve just spent a lot of mental energy creating, developing and establishing a new product or service, and the consumer recognition, or goodwill, that comes with it. How can you protect your efforts, so that someone else doesn’t reap all the benefit of your hard work? The answer—through the protections provided by patent, trademark, trade secrets, and copyright, collectively known as intellectual property law.

Though the term “intellectual property” is of modern coinage, the idea is not. In fact, the founding fathers thought that the encouragement of invention and creativity was so important that they included provisions in the Constitution requiring that laws be established to govern patents and copyrights.’s Intellectual Property Center addresses the broad spectrum of creative and inventive rights, providing information on the requirements for obtaining patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret protection, as well as the procedures for safeguarding your rights.


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.

Trade Secrets

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.