What Makes Something Intellectual Property?

What Makes Something Intellectual Property?-1

In the world of ideas and innovation, few phrases hold more bearing than that of intellectual property. This umbrella term is the crux of modern innovation and helps individuals and companies safeguard their creations and ideas from unauthorized use.

But what exactly is intellectual property, and what makes something fall into this unique category?

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property is an expansive term encompassing a variety of intangible assets that an individual or company legally owns and safeguards against unauthorized use. These assets refer to intellectual creations such as artwork, symbols, logos, brand names, taglines, etc.

What Makes Something Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property manifests in various forms, each with its unique characteristics and legal safeguards. In order for something to be protected as intellectual property, an individual or company must first obtain the rights, which can be done in several ways depending on the product or idea being protected. Let's explore a few ways that you can safeguard your idea and establish something as protected intellectual property.


Patents give inventors exclusive rights to their creations, be it a design, process, or physical invention. Granted by government agencies like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, patents ensure that the inventor has sole ownership of their innovation. For instance, Apple® has a design patent on its iconic iPhone®, which keeps other companies from replicating the design.


Copyrights extend exclusive rights to authors and creators, allowing them control over the use, replication, and distribution of their original works. Authors of books and musical artists often secure copyrights for their creations. This protection ensures that the original creators retain authority and can grant usage permissions through licensing agreements.


Trademarks, embodied in symbols, phrases, or insignias, distinguish products and are exclusive to the company that owns them. These symbols become synonymous with a brand, preventing others from replicating or using them. For instance, the iconic Golden Arches logo is a trademark owned by McDonald's®.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets comprise confidential processes or practices that offer a competitive edge to a company. These guarded secrets, not publicly disclosed, include designs, patterns, recipes, formulas, or proprietary processes. Actively protected by the company, trade secrets are often the result of extensive research and development, differentiating a company's offerings and providing a strategic advantage. Trade secrets are often protected via a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

As we explore the faces of Intellectual Property, we discover the diverse forms it takes, each with its own legal protection in place. Whether that's the exclusive rights granted by patents, the creative dominion of copyrights, the distinctive symbols of trademarks, or the concealed advantages of trade secrets, intellectual property is a fortress for innovation and a beacon for the creative minds shaping our future.

Reference: What Is Intellectual Property and What Are Some Types

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