Q: It seems like there are different types of IP protections for different types of work. How do I know which one applies
This is out of my practice area, but I can confirm that there are multiple types of protections: patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and trademarks are the main categories we often think of (with some subcategories I believe).
Each of these can be highly technical, and you will often find that attorneys who practice in this are tend to specialize in intellectual property.
As a very, very rudimentary rule of thumb, you might think of them like this:
- Did you create some new type of "art" (writing, drawing, painting, sculpture, etc.)? Copyright might be your best bet.
- Did you create some new product (invention) or process? You may want to pursue a patent.
- Have you created a logo, slogan, general theme of branding a company or product (maybe creative "art" but for the sake of business use)? Those items might be protected by trademarks/tradedress.
- Are you trying to protect your business practices, formulas, products, systems, etc. (that aren't patented?) from use by your competitors (or from your employees taking and becoming competitors)? Perhaps these are trade secrets that you can protect.
These rights come with varying lengths of protections and weighs of enforcement. Sometimes, you must make strategic decisions about how best to protect a right that might be protected in multiple ways.
I'm providing this answer in light of your question being unanswered for two days... I do not practice in this area, and you should not make any decisions based on these descriptions alone. Some of these may be more conducive to DIY protection than others. If you believe you have something worth protecting, you should do additional research on these categories and attempt to find an IP attorney who will provide you an initial consultation to advise you on whether you need an IP attorney to best protect your rights.
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