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Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright

Laws and Regulations

Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright

Intellectual property is a term used to describe trade secrets, patents, trademarks, and copyright. Protecting your intellectual property is an important part of your business, particularly if you are looking to trademark your business' name, symbol, motto etc., or if your business is based on an invention or involves writing and producing original written works, music, or video content.

The following resources provide an overview of intellectual property:

Basic Patent and Trademark Information

To patent an invention or register a trademark, you'll need to fill out an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The following guides provide more detail about registering patents and trademarks:




If your business involves creating original written works, music, or videos, they are covered by copyright laws. Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of original works of authorship, both published and unpublished, for a limited period of time. Copyright is granted by the U.S. Copyright Office.

  • How to Register a Copyright
    While copyright registration is not a requirement for protecting your works, copyright law provides several inducements or advantages to encourage copyright owners to make registration.
  • Pre-Register Your Work
    Pre-registration is a service intended for works that have had a history of prerelease infringement. It focuses on the infringement of movies, recorded music, and other copyrighted materials before copyright owners have had the opportunity to market fully their products.
  • Copyright FAQs
    Frequently asked questions about registering a copyright and copyright law.
  • Copyright Forms
    Copyright application forms.
  • Copyright Circulars and Fact Sheets
    Circulars and fact sheets below provide basic information about registration, fees, compulsory licenses, and other aspects of the copyright process.

Digital works, including those published on the Internet are protect by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Visit the Digital Rights page for information on how the DMCA applies to online businesses.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is information that has value because it is not generally known and is the subject of efforts to keep it secret. State law protects against disgruntled ex-employees, sabotage by current employees, or simple carelessness about the risk and possible protections of your trade secrets. Protection for trade secrets does not expire, as it does for copyright. As long as the owner makes reasonable efforts to keep the information secret, the information is protected.

  • The model Uniform Trade Secrets Act has been passed in whole or in part by 45 states. You should consult a local attorney for the specific provisions that apply to your business.
  • The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 makes the theft or misappropriation of a trade secret a federal crime.

You can protect your trade secrets by requiring employees and others with whom you share the information to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). SCORE provides the following resources on how to protect your trade secrets using a non-disclosure agreement:

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