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Understanding The Different Kinds Of Intellectual Property


When people talk about intellectual property (IP), they usually talk about copyrights, trademarks and patents, without knowing exactly what the difference between them actually are. Your business may actually have interests in all three, or need to protect all three, so it’s a good idea to understand the differences between them.

IP and Your Business

Before getting to the differences, it’s important to understand that your business can own IP, but your business actually can be the IP itself. For example, if you design a product, you could sell or license your product to other businesses, and make money doing that–even though you never actually produced any physical product or sold a single product. You could create a song that generates revenue or create a picture that people want to use on products.

Understanding Patents

Patents are simply inventions–either new products that never existed, or additions to, or variations of, existing products. If something didn’t exist before, or it existed but not in the way you have modified it, then you may have the grounds to patent your invention. Patents can’t be obvious–for example, you can’t tie a piece of yarn around a dog and patent your new yarn leash.

Patents can be based on how a product is designed, called a design patent, or on its use, called a utility patent.


Copyrights are mostly for creative or artistic works, like paintings, books, written material, songs, characters, or music. All of the superhero movie characters that you see on TV or in the theater are copyrighted.


Trademarks may also be designs, and creative works, but unlike copyrights, trademarks are associated with a given company, name or brand. Something has been done to give the trademark some kind of independent value.

Take, for example, the iconic apple logo with a bite out of it. Someone, somewhere designed that, and thus, it merits copyright protection. But that bitten apple is more than a design–it represents an entire company and has acquired a meaning in the eyes of the public that gives that little apple value. The same goes for the famous seven “slats” on the nose of Jeep cars, or the little arrow that Amazon uses.

Trademarks can not only be logos or designs, but they can be phrases, or even smells or designs; the interior layouts of some of your favorite retail stores are trademarked.

IP Can Overlap

There is a lot of overlap between the types of IP, and your business likely needs to protect all three. If you design a logo, and use it to represent your brand, the design may need to be protected as copyright, but also as trademark, if it represents your company.

Your invention may merit a patent, but if you have a slogan that you market your investigation with, that slogan may need copyright and trademark protection.

Call the West Palm Beach copyright litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today for help managing your business’ intellectual property.




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