University Buzz

What Are the 4 Types of Intellectual Property?


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Photo : Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Protecting your intellectual property assets is essential whether you work in engineering, retail, the creative arts, or any other field. 

According to Greenberg & Lieberman, LLC, intellectual property rights and protections are classified into four categories: copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets. You may need a lawyer if your intellectual property rights are violated or you want to patent your ideas. Here is what you should know about the four types of intellectual property:


A patent is a monopoly the government grants to build, sell, and utilize your innovation - and prevent others from doing so. If you are granted a patent, it is typically valid for 20 years. However, certain patents are only valid for 14 years. 

When your patent expires after 20 years, anyone can copy, build, and sell your idea. In exchange for the "monopoly," you must make your invention's specifics public so that someone "practiced in the arts" might reproduce it. For your patent to be eligible, your invention has to meet four criteria:

  • The subject must be "patentable"

  • Your concept must be "new"

  • The concept must be "helpful"

  • Your concept must be "unobvious"

Trade Secrets 

Trade secrets include specific, private information valuable to a company because it gives the company a competitive advantage in its marketplace. If another company obtains a trade secret, it may cause harm to the original holder.

Recipes for specific foods and beverages, innovative technologies, software, processes, and even various marketing methods are examples of trade secrets.

Others cannot replicate or steal the idea when a person or company has a trade secret. Businesses must actively conduct themselves in a way that reveals their willingness to safeguard the information to classify it as a "trade secret" and receive the legal protections associated.

Trade secrets are protected without official registration, but if you own that trade secret and your rights were violated, you may petition a court to order that individual to stop exploiting the trade secret.


Trademarks are phrases, words, or symbols that differentiate one party's source of an item or service from another. For example, the Nike logo is a trademark form that almost everyone can recognize.

Patents and copyrights can expire. Yet, trademark rights are derived from trademark use and can be kept perpetually. A trademark is not necessary to be registered, although it might provide additional benefits.


Copyright protects how ideas are expressed - literary works, art, music, architectural plans, or even software programming code. Copyrights, with a few exceptions, provide the owner of the shielded materials authority over reproduction, performances, new versions or adaptations, live performances, and distribution of the works.

Businesses can be copyright owners because the law allows for ownership via "works made for hire" - works generated by an employee within the scope of employment or by particular independent contractors owned by the employer. Copyright law grants copyright holders, among other things, the following exclusive rights:

  • Recreate the work

  • Do derivative works

  • Distribute copies through the sale, transfer of ownership, or licensing

  • A public performance or display of the work

Copyright protections are automatic. Once you produce something, it is yours. But if your copyright rights are violated and you intend to initiate a case, you must register your copyright.

© 2024 University Herald, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
* This is a contributed article and this content does not necessarily represent the views of
Join the Discussion
Real Time Analytics