How to Protect Your Intellectual Property

Are you starting a business? Creating an invention? Spearheading a marketing campaign? If so, you need to protect your intellectual property. Intellectual property is defined as any creative idea, expression or knowledge that may have commercial value. You can safeguard your intellectual property using patent laws, copyrights, and trademarks.


A copyright protects any of your original work or any content authorship whether unpublished or published. For example, using copyright laws can be exponentially helpful if you are an internet business marketer. Rich content is a powerful internet marketing tool, but plagiarism is a growing problem in the digital era. You can protect your content, which is intellectual property, using copyright laws.


Patents protect inventions and variations on existing inventions. If you receive a patent for intellectual property, it protects you from anyone trying to make and sell an identical or even similar product. There are three types of patents:

  1. Utility Patents. These patents protect any invention that is mechanical, technical, or chemical in nature. These are particularly difficult to get approved.
  2. Plant Patents. If you have created or discovered and asexually reproduced a new variety of plant, this patent protects that invention. For example, many of the fruits and vegetables you see at the grocery store have plant patents.
  3. Design Patents. This patent protects the appearance of an invention. This does not apply to the invention’s function, however.


A trademark protects the name(s) of your intellectual property. The goal of trademarks is to help consumers distinguish between competitors. One you use a certain mark or identifying characteristic for your intellectual property, it is automatically assumed as your trademark. You can use the TM symbol identifying your intellectual property as a trademark without filing any paperwork with federal, state or local governments.

Protecting Intellectual Property in Other Countries

Trademarks or patents do not protect your intellectual property in other countries. To enforce your intellectual property rights in another country, you must determine if you have the rights in that country to the property. Therefore, you must register your property with the country where you are seeking protection. However, there are international treaties that do not require you to register your copyrights in every country. Keep in mind that if you registered your copyright in the U.S. there is no treaty with some countries.

If you need a detailed explanation of how to protect your intellectual property, the U.S. Department of Commerce of Intellectual Property Rights can assist you in building a strategy to protect your property. The agency can also help you develop a strategy to protect your property in other countries.