An intellectual property (IP) is the legal recognition of an original and creative work or invention. Intellectual property laws help protect the creators from having their works stolen or copied. As an intellectual property lawyer, can attest, IP laws and registration can be complicated and require lots of research and analysis. IP can usually be grouped under four separate categories. Here are the types of intellectual property.


A copyright is one of the most common forms of intellectual property. Copyrights usually help to protect the original content of creators including works of literature, music, art, architecture, and even software. Creators can copyright these works to protect against unlicensed reproductions and imitations. Copyrights help to not only protect the financial interests of their owners, but their creative interests as well. Copyrights are often confused or conflated with the next type of IP.


A trademark is another legally recognized form of intellectual property. Things like symbols, slogans, logos, words that are uniquely associated with a specific brand or business. An intellectual property lawyer says, “When you do have a trademark, this means that this symbol, word, or phrase is legally registered to you or your business as a representation of a product or your business.” Some famous trademarks include McDonald’s iconic golden arches logo, Mr. T’s popular A-Team catchphrase “I pity the fool,” Nike’s famous slogan, “Just Do It,” as well as Nike’s easily recognizable swoosh symbol. Trademark protection is generally more subjective and debatable than copyright protection.


Another type of intellectual property is a patent. A patent is used to protect an original invention or innovation and gives IP rights to the individual(s) that created it. The owner of the patent gets to decide who can use the invention for production and distribution. There are three different kinds of patent available. The first is utility patents, which account for 90% of the patents issued by The U.S. Patent and Trademark office. A utility patent can be granted for new machines, products, certain processes, chemicals, as well as improvements to existing patents. The second type of patent is design patents, which are granted for the creation of groundbreaking designs for manufactured goods. The final type of patent available may also be the most unique. These are plant patents. These are granted to creators and breeders of new and distinct plant species, as well as hybrids. There are many stipulations and guidelines that must be met before a plant patent can be issued.

Trade Secret

The final type of IP is trade secrets. These are legally protected and proprietary formulas, strategies, and systems. The trade secret is usually confidential and instrumental to the business’s brand and operation. Examples of trade secrets include KFC’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, Coca Cola’s signature recipe, and Google’s search algorithm.