Understanding The Umbrella of Protection Under Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property is a term that is often misunderstood. Intellectual Property is a term that envelopes a number of different types of protections, including:

  • Trademarks
  • Patents
  • Copyright and
  • Trade Secrets

We can take Coca Cola as an example to see how intellectual property has played a significant role in their success.

  • Trademark: An example of Coca-Cola’s trademark is its name & brand
  • Patent: Examples of their patents includes the design of their bottle
  • Copyright: The packaging and art is protected by Copyright
  • Trade Secret: Their formula used to make their beverage is held as a closely guarded secret

Let’s clarify what is protected by each of these types of intellectual property.


Trademarks can include anything that assists consumers in identifying your business. Trademarks include logos, phrases, names, colors, smells and any other identifying feature. An example of a trademark from McDonald’s would be their slogan, ‘I’m Lovin’ It.’ In addition to registered trademark rights, there are some common law rights available to people who have a brand but have not registered it. Registration provides a number of benefits over unregistered marks.


Patents protect inventions. An invention may include an apparatus, machine, method, process, system or an improvement to any of these things. Often overlooked is the ability to protect the design of a product with an Industrial Design. In the United States, these are called utility patents and design patents. There are no common law rights associated with patents. The only way to obtain patent protection is to file a patent application and successfully navigate the patent process. Disclosure of an invention prior to filing a patent application can have consequences.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are valuable information that is not known to the public, or even in many cases, to employees. There are cautionary steps taken to protect trade secrets at all costs. Any disclosure of your trade secret should be made only after a non-disclosure agreement has been signed by the other party. Trade secret law serves as a protection from misappropriation of the information. The best way to protect a trade secret is to ensure that only the people who really need to know the secret have access to it.


Examples of what can be protected by Copyright include artistic works, books, movies, photographs and songs. Copyright provides creators with the ability to protect their original works. Copyright is automatically granted at the time of creation of a project. While it is possible to obtain a Copyright Registration, it is not required to have protection.

Many businesses have been able to attribute their success to protecting the various intellectual properties in their correct forms.

For more information about filing or resolving an infringement issue with regards to intellectual property, contact our intellectual property lawyers and agents for a consultation.