Reference: Intellectual Property

This lecture took a look at the facets of Intellectual Property (IP) - one's entitlement to their rights of a product produced by their mind. In other words, intellectual property can be described as protection of results from mental labour. The lecture went over the main four IP classifications - patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights. Design IP was also mentioned, however in brevity.


Patents are publicly registered declarations of some sort of creation or process that outlines how to build/perform something (i.e. a product's function). In return, patent holders are given exclusive rights to exercise/use their patent, preventing other entities from using it without agreement, else being subject to legal pursuit. Patents can be expensive (in excess of $10K) and lasts for up to 20 years upon approval.

The existence of the idea of patents stimulate a work culture of pursuing research and design, to be the first to develop a product such that exclusive commercial rights are gained - However patents can only be registered if they are new, practical and beneficial to society

Trade Secrets

Compared to patents, trade secrets provide "monopoly through obscurity", where protection of designs and processes arise from keeping that information private, with only a select few number of people knowing about it. By keeping 'secrets', competitors are prevented from developing similar products without investing lots of resources into reverse engineering the design/process.

Trade secrets are only effective as long as the secret is not disclosed to the public. If a trade secret is revealed, whilst intra-company discipline may be executed (i.e. firing the whistle-blower) there are no avenues of legal recourse to make the information secret again. Consequently, a great deal of effort is put into keeping trade secret confidential


Copyrights are a protection of the expression of an idea - giving copyright holders the authority of who is allowed to do what with their works. The copyright holder dictates the restrictions, guidelines and procedures that another entity must agree to if they wish to use a given work.

Copyright does not need to be claimed or requested by a creator; rather all works are automatically copyrighted unless explicitly detailed by the creator (i.e. open source licensing). This form of intellectual property protection lasts the lifetime of the creator, plus an additional seventy years after the death of the author.


Trademarks are the protection of a brand image / identity that mark a product's relationship to a company/entity. For example: a logo, slogan, phrase, name and character. Trademarks deter other entities from using these different 'marks', however they do not prevent re-use unless the trademark is registered.

Registered trademarks last only for a certain time period, and has an ongoing renewal cost. A registered trademark (signified with an R lasts for the duration of the trademark's validity and gives an entity the legal right to pursue claims of unauthorised trademark use.

Unregistered trademarks (aka 'common law trademarks') are free, and provide emphasis of an entity's claim to that name, however it does not prevent other entities from using the same mark. An example of an unregistered trademark could be a username - you might use it everywhere, but you do not own it; and someone else may make an account some website with your username.