GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
Intellectual property rights include rights secured under patent, copyright and trademark law.
A patent is a grant conveyed by the government to inventor giving the inventor or his assigns art exclusive monopoly to preclude all others from making, using or selling the patented invention for a period of time. In the U.S. two types of patents are utility patents, which are given for inventions and processes, and design patents, which are granted for ornamental designs. It is possible for one product, to be covered by both utility and design patents as each type of patent protects different attributes for the patented item.
A copyright protects works of authorship, which includes literary and artistic works.
A trademark and a service mark are words, names or symbols used to identify the source of goods and services, respectively. A similar sounding and/or looking trademarks and Service marks may be held to lead to confusion in the minds of the consumer and would thus be a violation of a federally registered trademark and service mark, state registered or common law trademark and service mark rights. This applies to trademarks and service marks that are not registered but in use.
Trade secret law can protect a formula, a practice, a process, a design, any invention, it might even include, depending on the laws in a given jurisdiction , an economic advantage over competitors or customers as long as it is not publicly known and maintained in secret and those who are aware of it are under a legal obligation to maintain its secrecy.
These secrets are called confidential information.
Trade secrets can be enforced by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), work-for-hire agreements and non-compete agreements with employees and contractors and suppliers. An employee agrees to not reveal their prospective employer's proprietary information, to surrender or assign to their employer ownership rights to intellectual work and work-products produced during the course (or as a condition) of employment, and to not work for a competitor for a given period of time (sometimes within a given geographic region) in exchange for his/.her employment and sometimes some compensation. . The agreement typically includes penalty clauses that have heavy financial fines to discourage the employee from disclosing trade secrets. As a company can protect its confidential information through NDA, work-for-hire, and non-compete contracts with its stakeholders (within the constraints of employment law, including only restraint that is reasonable in geographic- and time-scope), these protective contractual measures effectively create a perpetual monopoly on secret information that does not expire as would a patent or copyright. The lack of formal protection associated with registered intellectual property rights, however, means that a third party not bound by a signed agreement is not prevented from independently duplicating and using the secret information once it is discovered, such as through reverse engineering.
Disclaimer: The above information is intended (to be only of general information and is not intended to provide legal advise for which legal counsel should be consulted.