PTRC | Patents, Trademarks, Copyright and Trade Secrets

There are four separate and distinct forms of intellectual property:


  • Patents protect an invention. Inventions include any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement on any of the above.
  • Patents must be new, useful and non-obvious.
  • Patents can be obtained from the United States Patent and Trademark office (


  • Trademarks protect distinctive words, phrases, logos, symbols, slogans and any other devices used to identify and distinguish products or services in the marketplace.
  • Trademarks obtained through the United States Patent and Trademark office (


  • Protects original works of expression, such as fine arts, writing, music, photography and cinema by preventing people from copying or commercially exploiting these works without the permission of the copyright holder.
  • Copyrights laws do not protect names, titles or short phrases (Trademarks)
  • Copyrights obtained through the United States Copyright Office (
  • For guidance on copyright issues, see the Libraries' Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center.

Trade Secrets

  • Any formula, pattern, physical device, idea, process, compilation of information or other information that both provides the owner of the information with a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and is treated in a way that can reasonably be expected to prevent the public or competitors from learning about it, absent improper acquisition or theft.
  • Commonly used with food and beverage products.
  • Do-it-yourself- Trade secret protection lasts for as long as the secret is kept confidential.