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Technology Transfer Info | Invention Disclosure | Protecting Your IP | Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

Protecting Your IP

Inventors should be aware of four forms of intellectual property protection:  patents, trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks.
For more information or explanation of each of these, please contact the Department of Innovation or go to United States Patent and Trademark Office.


A patent provides your invention with protection from those who want to use or are using your invention. To be granted a patent must have evidence of tangible utility, be unique and non-obvious. The owner of a patent can stop or prevent others from using the capabilities of the patent for a number of years. The number of years is determined by the type of patent granted.
Obtaining a patent can take years and requires substantial diligence on the part of the inventor. The initial filing (or Provisional Patent) is a placeholder and only begins the process. Responding to the patent office inquiries requires that the inventor be available and continue to engage with the Department of Innovation in order for successful persecution of the patent.
To begin the process, the inventor must file an Invention Disclosure with the Department of Innovation and follow the process indicated on the Invention Disclosure process page.

Trade Secrets

Trade Secrets provide the creator or owner of a formula, pattern, device or compilation of information an advantage over others who might be competing or deriving comparable benefit from the use of the invention or information. To secure the trade secret, the owner or creator must secure the invention or information with secrecy. It can only be disclosed to those that have agreed to maintain the secret. Any public disclosure, including publications, conferences, presentation or communication to anyone who has not explicitly agreed to keep the information secret, removes the obligation to keep the information secret from anyone who may have previously agreed to keep the information secret. After disclosure, anyone is allowed to use the previously secret information and is also allowed to disclose the previously secret information to anyone for any purpose.


A copyright protects original works including writings, music, dramatic productions (e.g., plays or movies), photographs, audio or visual recordings, computer software, or other tangible forms of communication. Copyright protection is accomplished whenever the material is committed to a tangible medium and when the author uses the copyright symbol “©” immediately as a method of informing others that they intend to protect their work from undesired production, distribution, display or performance of the creations. It is not necessary to file for copyright protection. However, filing your work thru the Department of Innovation will make it easier to enforce your rights.


Trademarks and service marks protect the name and visual identity of your product, service or company from market confusion. The more unique or “fanciful” the name or mark, the more likely a trademark will be registered and the more likely protection will be assured. Being the first to use your mark is important. This can be as simple as sending a letter on your letterhead to a prospective customer. Adding the “TM” or “SM” superscript to your mark will notify others that you have begun the process of registering the mark.
Before using a mark, you should perform a search or work with the Department of Innovation to see that a search is performed. This step both helps see that you do not inadvertently infringe on another similar mark before you invest in creating graphics around the mark or building brand equity for the mark that will be exploited by others.

Donwload a PDF Copy of this page for your records here.


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