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Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright


Intellectual Property in the United States consists of patents, trademarks, and copyright. These can be valuable to entrepreneurs in a variety of ways such as helping develop and refine a product, providing protection for ideas, developing branding and marketing materials, and surveying competitors' activities.


Intellectual property 101: What is it and why should you protect it? -  Nashville Business Journal



Patents provide intellectual property protection for 20 years for inventions that are unique, useful, and non-obvious. In return for property rights, the inventor must provide detailed information about the invention in order "to promote the progress of science and useful arts" (U.S. Const. art. I, sec. 8).

Searching for patents can be very helpful in idea generation, surveying the competitive landscape, and finding technical information on an invention. More information patent searching is available in the Patent Libguide.


Copyright provides intellectual property protection for intellectual works such as "literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works". (United States Copyright Office, Copyright Basics) New works are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years.


Trademarks are a unique word or symbol that helps distinguish a product, company, or service. Trademarks are registered through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The initial term is for 10 years, but they can be renewed.


Intellectual property rights granted by U.S. agencies do not extend to foreign countries. If you are interested in intellectual property rights such as patents, trademark, or copyright in foreign countries, applications must be submitted for those countries. The resources below provide information on seeking international intellectual property.