The 3 main types of intellectual property and the costs involved

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Protecting intellectual property is not as easy as declaring ownership of a particular product or asset. Most countries have three main types of Intellectual Property (IP) that can be protected by law: patents, trademarks and copyrights. Everyone has their own characteristics, requirements and costs.

Before you concentrate on the type of protection to be used, you should know that these types of protection are not mutually exclusive. Depending on what you’re doing, you may be able to use a “belt & braces” approach and apply multiple degrees of protection, or one approach may be the most sensible. Read the descriptions below to get some basics.


To protect inventive ideas or processes – things that are new, useful, and not obvious – patents come up most often when you think of IP protection. Patents are also used to protect newly developed plant species or strains.

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For most companies, patents result from the following phases:


As a rule, innovation teams work to solve a common problem that their organization, industry or the whole world faces when developing their idea. When they come up with a solution or concept, they draw up plans and collect the resources that are required to implement them. Prototypes or drawings can be created to provide a more detailed description of the final product or process.

Disclosure of inventions

An internal review process often takes place with each invention. The innovation team consists of internal consultants and an invention review panel from various disciplines. The appraisers evaluate, evaluate, evaluate, evaluate and highlight potential errors in the documents and descriptions for the invention, which are then corrected by the inventor. These checks can and often are done multiple times for a single invention.

Patent application

If the invention is deemed to be meritorious enough for the pursuit of patent protection, some organizations will prepare their own provisional or non-provisional patent applications. Others will manage this phase. There can be further optimizations if an application is prepared and then the filing with the responsible patent office and the law enforcement phase begins (the back and forth with the state patent office). As a rule, it is an external lawyer who manages this process and the associated docketing activities.

Docketing is the umbrella name for activities that involve managing paperwork and meeting the filing deadlines set by the state patent office. Since the registration process is often very complicated, patent offices strongly recommend that you work with experienced patent attorneys to handle this process.


Once a patent is approved, it has a limited lifespan. Patent holders are responsible for maintaining and tracking the use of their patents and paying the appropriate regular renewal fees from the government. If a particular technology or other patented good collects dust, you may not want to renew it. Instead, you can try to sell, license, or donate it. Conversely, if a patented asset performs well through product sales or licensing activities and shortens its lifespan, you might consider driving innovation and maintaining competitive dynamism.


The costs vary depending on the country or countries in which you file an application and, depending on the complexity of the invention, can add tens of thousands of dollars plus legal fees. Maintenance fees over the term of the patent can be thousands more per patent and country in which patent rights were granted. You need to keep an eye on these costs.


A brand differs from a patent in that it protects words, phrases, symbols, sounds, smells and color schemes. Brands are often viewed as assets that describe or otherwise identify the source of the underlying product or service that a company offers, e.g. B. the MGM lion roar, the orange Home Depot color scheme, the Intel Inside logo, etc.


Trademarks do not necessarily have to be approved by the government. They can be used in abundant use in international trade. However, registering a trademark offers much better protection and is accomplished by submitting an application to the appropriate government agency.

To register a trademark, the company or user must provide a clear description and representation of the trademark and its use in connection with related products or services. As with patents, it is a good idea to work with an outside attorney who specializes in trademark registrations and / or search services to ensure that there is a clear path for your desired trademark.


Brands are generally cheaper to procure. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, trademark registration currently costs between $ 225 and $ 325 for each class code you use per trademark. Attorney and research fees are extra. There are also regular (and relatively inexpensive) government maintenance fees for brands.

Copyright ©

Copyrights do not protect ideas, but the way in which ideas are expressed (“original works of authorship”) – written works, art, music, architectural drawings, or even program code for software (most clearly in video game entertainment today).


Copyrights are generally connected when the original works are fixed in a material medium, but should be registered with the state copyright office to ensure optimal protection in the form of damage, dispositions and confiscations. Copyright registration applications are much simpler than patents or trademarks and can usually only be obtained from the author. The US Copyright Office recommends using its online application system and requires that an example of the work be protected and some background information about the author is available.


Depending on the type of work being protected, fees currently vary between $ 25 and $ 100 in the United States. The most commonly requested copyright registration relates to an author’s work and costs about $ 35.

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