Intellectual property refers to a product of the mind. You can create intellectual property as an individual or on behalf of your business. You can also hire someone else to create intellectual property for you with the agreement that you retain the rights.
There are different types of intellectual property, and it is important to know which type you have so you know what protections are available to you and your business.
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, copyright protects works you create in a tangible medium. The work can be literary (such as a novel or nonfiction work) or artistic (such as a painting or song lyrics). For the purpose of copyright protection, the law regards digital formats as tangible media. If you own the copyright to a work, you can prevent other people from using it.
If you create or develop some kind of invention or new technical innovation, you can seek a patent for it. Patent protection prevents other people from using, selling or copying your invention without your permission.
A trademark is a distinctive design, phrase or maybe even a single word that you use to distinguish your business from competitors. Logos and slogans are examples of trademarks. Your competitors cannot use trademarks that are close to yours to make it appear that their products are coming from you. At the same time, before you introduce a trademark, you need to check to see that it is not too similar to one that your competitors use.
Trademark and copyright protection go into effect automatically. You can register them with the federal government for greater protection, but this is not a requirement. However, if you have a new invention that you would like to protect, you have to apply for a patent.