Very Brief Overview of Intellectual Property – Where Do Patents Fit In?

06.04.2017 |

Episode #1 of the course Patent basics: for inventors and decision-makers by Clint R. Morin


Welcome to the Patent Basics course!

My name is Clint Morin, and I’m a patent attorney and electrical engineer. I specialize in obtaining patent protection and strategizing about when and how to obtain patent rights that are right for a specific business or technology.

Over the next ten days, you’ll learn what patent rights are, the anatomy of a patent, what the patent process is like, and where to start looking for patentable inventions in your company or technology. This information will give you the ammunition you need to make sense of the patent process, enable you to make good decisions, and avoid spending money and time on things that are not of benefit to you or your company!


Intellectual Property

Patents are a type of intellectual property, so we are going to get started by talking generally about what intellectual property is. It sounds intimidating, but it really shouldn’t be. Conventional property rights are the rights you can have in a specific area of land, vehicle, book, or other specific tangible property. Intellectual property simply refers to rights you can have in non-physical things, such as rights you can have in the world of ideas or concepts. For example, if you have a patent on an invention, you may have rights to stop others from making, using, or selling any object or process that meets the requirements of your invention. Powerful stuff!

Now that you have an example of why intellectual property rights can be valuable, let’s talk about the four main areas of intellectual property rights: copyright, trademark, trade secret, and, our focus in this course, patent rights. We will briefly cover these other areas only because they are helpful in understanding what patent rights are.



Copyright rights give you rights in the expression of ideas stored in a fixed medium. That seems kind of complicated, but it really isn’t. Basically, you have rights in how an idea is expressed, not necessarily the idea itself. Think songs, books, movies, pictures, or software code.



Trademark rights give you rights in something that identifies you as a source or provider of goods or services. The most common trademarks are for a name or logo of a business or product. But you can also have trademark rights in sounds or how your store is organized!


Trade Secret

Trade secrets include information that you use in your business and that is not generally known or that cannot be reasonably obtained by others. Basically, trade secret rights protect information that provides you a business benefit or advantage when you keep it secret.



This is the reason you signed up for this course, isn’t it? Simply put, patent rights give you rights in a new and useful invention. We’ll get into more detail later, but when you think patents, you generally want to think about the technology or processes that make something useful or make it work well.



Patent rights are one type of intellectual property right available to you. Your patent rights may need to fit within a broader strategy for your business. In some cases, you will have multiple types of legal rights that help you protect, albeit in different ways, the same technology or product.

Now, you have a general understanding of intellectual property rights and where patents fit in. Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about patents and what rights they give you!


Recommended reading

What is Intellectual Property? published by the World Intellectual Property Organization for a general overview and reasons for protection of intellectual property.


Recommended book

“Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright (Nutshell Series)” by Arthur Raphael Miller, Michael H. Davi


Notice: This course and its lessons are not, nor are they intended to be, legal or other professional advice. Please seek the advice of a competent attorney or professional for your specific situation.


Share with friends