An Introduction to Patents, Brands, Trade Secrets Trademarks, and Intellectual Property Rights Issues


August 31, 2006 - William A Knudson


Determining the best way to protect your investment in any type of innovation is an important issue for many entrepreneurs. Unique techniques, products, trademarks, brands and packaging are all types of intellectual property. The government offers a level of protection to inventors through patent and copyright legislation. Trademarks, brands and packaging also are offered some type of legal exclusivity. Trade secrets are innovations that a firm or individual possesses that for one reason or another the firm or individual either cannot or chooses not to patent. Trade secrets are also protected by legislation.

The best strategy to preserve the value of intellectual property can be extremely important for a business. This is particularly true in cases where the cost of entering the same industry or copying the innovation is easy. This is often the case in the agri-food system.

This paper gives a general overview of what qualifies for legal protection for various types of intellectual property. To a great extent it is a synopsis of Protecting Your Innovations, prepared by Volpe and Koenig, P.C. prepared for the Institute of Food Technologists' annual meeting and Food Expo. This paper is not a substitute for legal services or legal expertise. For specific questions or issues contacting a lawyer, especially one with a background in intellectual property right issues, is the best policy.

Overview of Intellectual Property

Physical property is made of up matter. It includes real estate, machines, buildings, etc. Intellectual property is a product of the mind, and while it can be manifested as physical property, the concept behind it can be copied, transported or transferred. As a result, it is easy for intellectual property to be stolen or otherwise be lost or forfeited to others (Volpe and Koenig, p.2). Creating good internal procedures and policies is important when working with intellectual property as is developing a confidentiality policy (Volpe and Koenig, p.2).


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