Intellectual property law is a branch of property law that vests an ownership right in abstract ideas and works stemming from the thought of the creator. The purpose behind intellectual property law depends on the branch, but generally speaking it is to encourage the continual advancement of ideas. There are four main branches of intellectual property law, each with their own particularities: copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secret.
Copyright is protection for the authors of any original works of authorship embodied in any tangible form, such as a writing or recording. Copyright is the branch of intellectual property that grants ownership in works of literature, films, music, and works of art and gives the author the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the work. Additionally, copyright grants the owner the sole right to develop new works of authorship based off the original.
Trademark is a branch of intellectual property law that grants its owner the exclusive right to use a symbol or phrase connected with the sale of goods. The purpose behind trademark is a little different than other branches of intellectual property as it is not only to benefit the holder of the trademark right but also to protect consumers. The idea is that the trademark identifies the source of the product bearing the mark and if another source fraudulently uses the mark, then it can mislead the purchaser who may believe that a different company made the product than actually did.
Patent is the branch of intellectual property law that grants a property right in a process or invention to its creator. The requirements for a product or process to be patentable are typically that it must be of practical use and contain a new characteristic not currently known to the experts in the field pertaining to the product or process. By granting exclusive rights in the product or process to inventors, patent law encourages technological innovation and development.
Trade secret is perhaps the least discussed and most abstract branch of intellectual property law. It is broadly defined as confidential business information that provides the business that is holding the trade secret a competitive edge in their industry. Trade secrets can encompass anything from sales methods to manufacturing processes. Generally, the defining characteristic of a trade secret is that it is information or a process that the company holding the secret takes measures to ensure it is not made public.