A creative person often has an idea and wants to protect and monetize their idea.  They want to tell the world about their idea, and secure the rights to said idea. There are several steps required before the creative dream can become a reality.

First, the creative person should define what their idea is in order to properly identify the intellectual property at hand. This key process is called “ID the IP,” and is crucial for both the attorney and the client. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the common types of IP.


A copyright is the exclusive right to make copies of a work. Copyright extends throughout the arts, from music, to poetry to paintings. Copyright also applies to software, and the technology community has paid a great deal of attention to software licensing.  Copyright protection is created when an idea is expressed in a fixed medium. 



A patent is a monopoly over the practice of an invention. It differs from a copyright in that it is protected for a shorter duration. It differs from a trade secret in that the methodology behind the patentable subject matter must be disclosed in order to attain the patent.



A trademark is a source-identifying symbol used in trade to identify a company. The purpose of a trademark is to protect consumers from confusion between companies in the market. Common trademarks include symbols, color schemes and words used in a unique combination or a word used in an abstract way (given an abstract definition).


Trade secrets

A trade secret is a company secret used in business and not disclosed outside of the company.  A common example of a trade secret is a chemical formula for a consumer good that was created by the company. If the trade secret is not disclosed, it remains a secret in perpetuity.


Identifying which type of IP protection is needed will guide the legal process and dictate business decisions with regard to pursuing the necessary protection.  Creators should discuss these IP types with an attorney.