Five Kinds of Intellectual Property

There are five kinds of intellectual property. They are Brand, Technology, Content, Secrets, and Relationships. Each kind of intellectual property has a different value for different companies, but every company has at least some of each type.

Your brand is the way that your customers recognize who you are and how they recognize when a product or service is coming from you. Typically, your brand is your company name and the name of your product or service. Sometimes it may also be your packaging, the colors you use, or even the shape of your building. Think of your brand as the bridge to your customers and you will realize why this type of intellectual property can be so important and so valuable. You will typically protect your brand through trademark notices and federal trademark registrations and sometimes also through copyright applications and contracts.

Your technology is how you do things better than others. It is often the best way to distinguish yourself in the market. It can be how you process information or projects. It can be a new design for a product or a new tool. Whatever it is, it provides you with results that others cannot match in the same way. Technology is usually protected by patent pending notices and federal patent registrations, and sometimes by trade secret policies.

Your content is what you create to communicate with others: to teach, advertise, market, sell, improve, inform, persuade, inspire, or any other kind of communication. It may be directed to customers, employees, shareholders, or strategic partners. The medium may be through books, videos, articles, websites, blogs, works of art, music, manuals, handbooks, guides, or etc. It usually takes a lot of work to create quality content. Content is usually protected by copyright notices and federal copyright applications and sometimes by contracts or federal trademark registrations.

Your secrets include information that is valuable because it is not publicly known. These may be secrets you are expected to keep and would suffer liability if you didn’t keep them, like client contact information, credit card numbers, client health information, and etc. It may be secrets that you gain a market advantage from keeping, like preferred vendor lists, process steps, secret ingredients, and etc. Secrets are usually protected by trade secret policies and contracts are almost always play some part.

Your relationships are perhaps the most valuable part of your business. Nothing meaningful is ever accomplished in this world without involving other people. Being able to count on other people in business is critical and when you sell your company, the buyer will want those assurances to be in writing. Relationships are usually protected by agreements. Sometimes other intellectual property protections will supplement the agreements.

The five types of intellectual property, Brand, Technology, Content, Secrets, and Relationships, each play a role in helping your business succeed. Protecting that property is one of the prime roles of the executive team of a company.