What are the 4 main types of intellectual property protection?

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Written by Tomas Orsula

Senior Trademark Attorney

Several legal instruments are available to protect an individual's or company's intellectual property rights, the most notable being trademarks, copyrights, designs and patents. Each of these instruments fulfils a different role in safeguarding intellectual property.

  • The purpose of trademarks is to signal a single source of goods and services to the consumer and protect businesses that are doing a good job at being distinctive and building customer recognition by preventing others from infringing on their intellectual property. Trademarks usually protect brand names, logos or slogans, but other characteristics can also be trademarked, such as the shape of the Coca-Cola bottle or MGM's lion's roar.
  • Copyrights are most commonly associated with literary, music and artistic creations and prevent others from unauthorised copying and adaptation of the original work.
  • Registered designs offer protection explicitly related to the visual appearance of the product/service in question. This could be product packaging or a t-shirt design (among numerous other examples), effectively preventing others from using designs that can be argued to create a similar impression.
  • Patents are explicitly focused on protecting the technical aspects of a new invention, providing their owners with a considerable level of protection against product/service copycats by preventing the imitation of the underpinning functionality and/or mechanisms.

You can learn more these intellectual property protection tools in this article.

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