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How do trade secrets, patents and copyright differ?

On Behalf of | Jul 22, 2021 | Intellectual Property Litigation

Protecting your intellectual property (IP) is crucial for content creators and business owners. Without protections in place, you could find your life’s work stolen before you know it.

There are many different avenues that you can take to protect your ideas and property. The important part is finding out which of these methods will work best for you, as each has its pros and cons.

The similarities between IP protections

The United States Patent and Trademark Office discusses trade secret policies, patents, copyrights and more. There are even more options than this, but these are among the most popular and the easiest to access.

Patents protect the invention of new processes. Copyrights protect published or unpublished works. These broad categories can include anything in architecture, choreography, software, music, art, literature and more. In both cases, you have exclusive rights, such as:

  • Reproduction
  • Distribution
  • Display and performance
  • Derivatives

Your product or idea may qualify for both at the same time. For example, the ornamental design of a project could require a patent and a copyright as a form of art that requires legal protection.

How do trade secrets differ?

Trade secrets differ from the other two in that they require far less money, time and paperwork. However, trade secrets also have a flaw in their protection. If another party leaks the information you try to protect, it legally becomes available to the public and they can use it as they see fit.

Trade secrets can be vital to your business, so it is essential to have protections like non-disclosure agreements for your employees.