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Quick! What's the Difference between Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, and Trade Secrets?

While there are many differences, at the core each type of intellectual property is a distinct bundle of rights.

In a nutshell: patents are for 1) useful inventions, 2) non-functional aesthetic designs, and 3) novel plants; copyrights are for works, aka expressions, fixed in some medium (think music, art, lyrics, poems, novels, film, sculpture, software code, etc.); trademarks and service marks are for brand or source protection (think product and brand names, logos, the look and feel the package, or even the sound or jingle associated with goods and services); trade secrets are for protecting information having economic value that is not publicly available (think secret customer lists, formulas, data, strategy, business methods, information, processes, software code, etc.). Of course there are many other differences such as how rights are acquired and for how long they can be kept. For more details see my other posts.

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