The Different Types of IP Protection and Why They Are Important

February 06th, 2020 ‧ 4 min read

Basically speaking, intellectual property rights are a common type of legal IP protection for those who create. These rights, however, have actually contributed enormously to the world, in particular economically.

Many companies in a variety of industries rely on the enforcement of their patents, trademarks, and copyrights, while consumers can also be assured of quality when they purchasing IP-backed products.

Now, let’s gain a better understanding of the benefits IP delivers and how we should value the protection different types of intellectual property rights provide.


Table of contents

The Importance of Intellectual Property Rights

The purpose of intellectual property rights is to encourage new creations, including technology, artwork, and inventions, that might increase economic growth. Intellectual property rights increase the incentives for individuals to continue to produce things that further create job opportunities and new technologies, while enabling our world to improve and evolve even faster.

According to The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center:

  • Intellectual Property Creates and Supports High-Paying Jobs

IP-intensive industries employ over 45 million Americans and hundreds of millions of other people worldwide. The average worker in an IP-industry also earns about 46% more than his or her counterpart in a non-IP industry.

  • Intellectual Property Drives Economic Growth and Competitiveness

America’s IP is worth approximately US$6.6 trillion, which is more than the nominal GDP of any other country in the world. IP-intensive industries account for over 1/3– or 38.2%– of total U.S. GDP. 52% of all U.S. merchandise exports are related to IP, and this amounts to nearly US$842 billion.


What Are Intellectual Property Rights?

Intellectual property rights are legal rights that provide creators protection for original works, inventions, or the appearance of products, artistic works, scientific developments, and so on.

There are four types of intellectual property rights (IP): patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.


Types of Intellectual Property Rights


A patent is used to prevent an invention from being created, sold, or used by another party without permission. Patents are the most common type of intellectual property rights that come to people’s minds when they think of intellectual property rights protection. A Patent Owner has every right to commercialize his/her/its patent, including buying and selling the patent or granting a license to the invention to any third party under mutually agreed terms.

There are three different categories that patents can fall under:

  • Utility: A utility patent protects the creation of a new or improved product, process, composition of matter, or machine that is useful.

An example of utility patent: Method for a driver assistance system of a vehicle US9772626B2

  • Design: A design patent protects the ornamental design on a useful item.

An example of design patent: Electric bicycle USD845178S1

  • Plant: A plant patent protects new kinds of plants produced by cuttings or other nonsexual means.

An example of plant patent: Crapemyrtle plant named ‘JM1’  USPP31585P2


Source: Color Matters

Trademarks are another familiar type of intellectual property rights protection. A trademark is a distinctive sign which allows consumers to easily identify the particular goods or services that a company provides. Some examples include McDonald’s golden arch, the Facebook logo, and so on. A trademark can come in the form of text, a phrase, symbol, sound, smell, and/or color scheme. Unlike patents, a trademark can protect a set or class of products or services, instead of just one product or process.


Copyright does not protect ideas. Rather, it only covers “tangible” forms of creations and original work–for example, art, music, architectural drawings, or even software codes. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to sell, publish, and/or reproduce any literary, musical, dramatic, artistic, or architectural work created by the author.

Trade Secret

Trade secrets are the secrets of a business. They are proprietary systems, formulas, strategies, or other information that is confidential and is not meant for unauthorized commercial use by others. This is a critical form of protection that can help businesses to gain a competitive advantage.


Although intellectual property rights protection may seem to provide a minimum amount of protection, when they are utilized wisely, they can maximize the benefit and value of a creation and enable world-changing technology to be developed, protected, and monetized.

Interested in how to maximize the value of your patent or product? Read to find out how to monetize your patent!

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