4 Types Of Intellectual Property Rights Protection (Definitions & Examples)

4 types of intellectual property rightsProtecting a business’ intellectual property rights provides a valuable competitive edge. It is one of the driving forces that fuel the economic growth in the United States. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, industries that rely on intellectual property (IP) have an average weekly wage that is 42% higher than industries that don’t rely on IP. Jobs in the patent industry have wages that are 73% higher, and copyright industry jobs are 77% higher.

Learn the different categories of intellectual property and the rights associated with them.

First, let’s define intellectual property protection

You’ve created something new and original and want to know how to protect it. You may ask yourself, what type of property is intellectual property?

Knowing how it applies to you requires knowing the intellectual property right definition.

IPR is the protection of all intellectual property and intangible assets from illicit use by other entities. 

Intellectual property rights protect a person’s original creations in various forms, and intellectual property can include ideas for inventions, manufactured goods, artistic works, music, logos, computer programming, and more. It gives the creator exclusive rights to how their intellectual property is used and the power to enforce their rights in court. 

Examples of Intellectual Property

We encounter examples of intellectual property every day. They are a significant value add for business and help to boost the economy. Here are a few examples of how intellectual property is used. 

1. Computer Programs

Computer programs are copyrighted (more on this later) so no other entity can use their programs without the consent of the company that developed them. Also, algorithms used by computer programs are a trade secret (more on this later, as well) so no one outside of the company that created them knows the specific coding for their algorithms. 

Example of Computer Programming Intellectual Property

Google’s Algorithm’s: Much of Google’s competitive advantage and business value is in their proprietary algorithms. Google has earned the spot of the most used internet search engine because of its precise and unique results churned out by algorithms.

2. Branding

From logos, to tag lines, to a brand’s color palette – all can be considered intellectual property. Almost anything that makes a brand instantly recognizable visually can be considered intellectual property. 

Example of Branding Intellectual Property 

Tiffany Blue: Tiffany & Co. packages all of its products in a little blue box or a blue bag. The color is so iconic to Tiffany & Co. that when people see the blue box or bag, they know where it came from without having to read the name. Tiffany & Co. had the specific color of blue trademarked so that only their company can use it for branding purposes. 

3. Artists’ Work

As soon as an artist creates original works of art, whether it is a written body of work like a poem or book, a visual medium like drawing or painting, or music, it is copyrighted immediately. Of course, there are legal actions that will further protect intellectual rights in case the rights need to be enforced. 

Example of Artist’s Intellectual Property

Music Artist, Prince: Prince was a famous music artist who signed a deal with a major record company. When he found their rules to be too restricting, he tried to leave. What he found was that he had signed over the rights to his own name in his contract with the label. He ultimately had to legally change his name to a symbol so he could create music on his own. 

4. Inventions

Inventions that are original and non-obvious are protected under intellectual property rights. There is a process to get these types of things protected to ensure the invention meets all requirements of originality and usefulness. 

Example of Invention Intellectual Property

Henry Ford’s Patents: During Henry Ford’s lifetime, he had more than 150 patents. One of those patents was, of course, the gasoline engine. Ford had patents for many auto parts that gave him an edge when constructing the automobile. 

4 Types of Intellectual Property Rights Protection

There are many types of IPR. Here is a list of the four types of intellectual property protection and the IP rights that correspond.

1. Patent Protection

A patent is a limited-time, exclusive right to an invention. The invention has to be non-obvious, original and useful, in order to be considered for protection under IP law. Patents are submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Typically, a patent can last for 20 years. The USPTO website has a calculator available for download to calculate the exact date of expiration for a patent. 

Here is a short list of inventions and original ideas connected to intellectual property and patents:

  • Chemicals
  • Plants (biogenetic material)
  • Machines
  • Computer programs
  • Devices and tools

It takes the right expertise to determine if a materialized idea or invention qualifies for protection under patent law. 

A patent lawyer can guide you through getting the necessary paperwork together and help determine if your creation meets the qualifications for a patent. There are different types of patents with specific uses: 

  • Utility patent: Protects a useful machine, process, or product. It prohibits other people and companies from producing, utilizing, or selling your invention without permission. 
  • Design patent: Protects the visual aspects and characteristics of a product. It keeps other companies from making duplicates of a manufactured item. 
  • Plant patents: Protects the creation of a new plant that is created from two existing species. 

2. Copyright Protection

According to copyright.gov, copyrighting protects original authorship – which includes poems, books, and any other form of literature, music, artistic work like paintings and drawings, computer software, movies, songs, and architecture. With the wide breadth of items that copyright laws cover, it’s important to note what it doesn’t cover: 

  • Written recipes outside of a cookbook, including other recipes
  • Names (protected under a trademark)
  • Ideas
  • Concepts
  • Systems or methods

As soon as a qualifying body of work is created, it is considered copyrighted. However, if there is a copyright infringement and legal protection is needed, registering with a U.S. Copyright Office is the best way to exercise your legal rights.  

3. Trademark Protection

The USPTO defines a trademark as any word, symbol, phrase, design, or a combination of them that is used to identify your goods or services. Legally, a trademark technically refers to a good, and a service mark refers to a service. 

As soon as you begin using a logo, symbol, or phrase for your goods and/or services, you are a trademark owner. However, the rights of a trademark owner are limited to geographical indications. In order to have nationwide legal protection, you will have to register your trademark with the USPTO. 

After your trademark is registered with the USPTO, wherever you use your trademark, you can add the trademark signal after it. This notifies other entities that your logo, symbol, or phrase is registered. 

4. Trade Secret Protection

A trade secret is different from other IP protections in that no registration is ever required. A trade secret is proprietary information that is actively protected by a company. A trade secret has to provide value to the company while it is kept a secret. Only a particular group of people should know about a company’s trade secret. However, once it is made known to the public or is legally acquired by another entity, it is no longer protected under trade secret protection law. 

Need help with one of the forms of intellectual property rights?

Intellectual property provides significant value to a company’s competitive advantage. Make sure you understand the legal protections for intellectual property.

Cueto Law Group specializes in business law. Our dedicated team will take care of the legal aspects of protecting your intellectual rights. Call Cueto Law Group to get the help you need.


What does it mean to license a patent?

To license a patent means that the owner of a patent enters a contract with another entity, granting them permission to use the patent under agreed-upon terms. The licensee agrees to pay a certain amount to the licensor for the rights to use the patent.

Who can register for a copyright?

All work is protected by US copyright law. This means foreigners’ work is protected in the US. Minors are also eligible to register for copyright protection. As long as the work belongs to you, or you are made the legal owner of the work through inheritance or purchase, you can register the work.

What protection does a trade secret offer?

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), trade secret protection applies if there has been a breach of contract or secret information was acquired through commercial or industrial espionage. Since the information from trade secrets is not disclosed, there are no defense mechanisms in intellectual property law to protect trade secrets.