What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property, or IP as it is commonly referred to, consists of all the pieces of your business that you or your employees have thought of. It’s the things that differentiate you from the competition that you came up with using your intellect – your brain.
IP is the original concepts and ideas conceived of and developed by employees, or workers and advisors under contract to do so, that become corporate assets. This includes things like:
- work processes
- articles, blog posts, case studies, and other content
- product and business names
They are things or ideas you have created that support your business.
Protecting Your Assets
Since IP has value, and it belongs to you, you’ll want to protect it. Fortunately, the U.S. government agrees with you and has created laws to ensure no one else steals or uses your IP without your permission.
The four major types of protections available to IP include:
Copyright. This type of protection is given to creative works such as writing or drawing. Books, software, architectural drawings, articles, blog posts, graphic designs, and movies are all covered by copyright.
Trademark. This protection is given to original words or combinations of words, symbols, and designs that you create to represent your business. The symbol TM at the end of a word indicates that trademark protection is claimed, and ® means that the trademark has been registered.
Patent. Patent protection is given to product or process inventions, giving the creator exclusive control over how their idea is used. There are three types of patents: utility (for a process or machine), design (original graphical representations), and plant (as in flora and fauna).
Trade secret. Trade secret protection is given to special formulas, programs, or techniques you develop that are your own (think Coke’s secret formula for its drinks or your masseuse’s particular techniques for working on you).
Although IP is often intangible, unlike equipment or inventory, it can be an even more important contributor to the success of your business than tangible assets.