Intellectual property (IP) is a general term for categories of rights in intangible creations of the mind. IP matters a lot because it is one of the most valuable business assets for tech startups. IP builds brand awareness and customer loyalty; establishes protectable legal interests in the technology and know-how used to produce the company’s goods and services; can be sold, licensed or leveraged for profit; gives a company its competitive edge; drives innovation; enables a company to enter new markets and grow market share; and creates jobs.
There are four main types of IP:
- Patents protect rights in useful inventions and discoveries, like machines and processes;
- Copyrights protect expressive works, like art, music, dance and literature, and also software;
- Trademarks protect product, service and company identifiers such as brands, logos and package designs;
- Trade secrets protect commercially valuable confidential information, like business and financial plans, formulas, recipes and customer information;