Intellectual property (IP) is a term referring to a number of distinct types of intangible original, created assets, both artistic and commercial, recognizable under law. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property include copyrights, patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial design rights and trade secrets (in some jurisdictions).
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Patents — A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office, which is a non-commercial federal entity and one of 14 bureaus in the Department of Commerce. There are three very different kinds of patent in the United States: (1) a utility patent, which covers the functional aspects of products and processes; (2) a design patent, which covers the ornamental design of useful objects; and (3) a plant patent, which covers a new variety of living plant.
Each type of patent confers confers “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. However, patents do not protect ideas, but only protect objects reduced to some sort of physical state, even if it’s only in the form of unique and original computer code.
Tthe patent term for utility patents is now 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent is filed in the United States. Under some circumstances an extension is possible, but often such an extension is not available. Design patents run for 14 years from date of issuance.
Trademarks – A trademark (or in the case of a service, a Service Mark) can be a word, a name, or logo or other symbol used in conjunction with specific goods or services to indentify the originator of the goods or services and to distinguish them from the goods or services of others.
Trademarks and service marks that are adequately protected can be used to prevent others from adopting and using marks that are confusingly similar to the protected mark, but will not permit the owner to stop others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a mark that is sufficiently different from the protected mark. Trademarks which are used in U.S. interstate or foreign commerce may be registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.