Basic Concepts of Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual Property law usually refers to laws for patent, trademark, trade secret, and copyright. This article reviews the basic aspects of intellectual property law.


1. Utility Patents

Utility patents are issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof.  Utility patents generally permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing, subject to the payment of maintenance fees.

2. Design Patent

Design Patents are issued for a new, original, and ornamental design embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture, it permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the design. Design patents issued from applications filed on or after May 13, 2015 shall be granted for the term of fifteen years from the date of grant.


A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, sound, smell or device, or any combination that identifies and distinguishes your goods and services, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others.  A trademark indicates the source of the goods and services, even if that source is unknown.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is defined as any valuable business information that is not generally known and is subject to reasonable efforts to preserve confidentiality.  Trade secrets consist of information and can include a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process. To meet the most common definition of a trade secret, it must be used in business, and give an opportunity to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.

This article is not meant to provide legal advice, but rather to inform.  For legal advice, please seek the advice of legal counsel who fully understands your circumstances.