Understanding What Might Constitute Intellectual Property

AdobeStock_427349372-300x147Here in San Jose, intellectual property (IP) is the most valuable asset many companies own. Individuals, too, have IP rights that must be protected. The San Jose intellectual property attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP help businesses and individuals protect their intellectual property. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recognizes different tools that can be used to protect different types of IP. Keep reading to learn more about the four  distinct types of intellectual property that are recognized by law.


According to the USPTO, patents are an IP tool used to protect technical inventions. These technical inventions can be chemical compositions, mechanical processes, or machine designs. When a technical invention is protected with a patent, the patent holder may prevent others from using the invention in any way without their permission.


A trademark is used to identify your product – and distinguish it from competitors’ products. The trademark can be a word, a phrase, a design, or a combination of these elements. Most people are familiar with common examples (such as the familiar Coca-Cola label or the iconic “Nike swoosh”). A trademark is a useful tool in consumer goods. Not only does it prevent other businesses from using the mark of your trade, but a trademark can even prevent others from using a trademark that is similar enough to be confused with yours. Our San Jose IP lawyers can help your business find a distinguishing mark, obtain trademark protection through the USPTO, and enforce your trademark rights when necessary.


A copyright is an IP toll that protects “created works.” These works can be artistic, literary, or intellectual in nature. Common examples include:

  • Music
  • Novels
  • Paintings
  • Sculptures
  • Films
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Song lyrics

To be eligible for copyright protection, the work must be both tangible (which includes digital formats) and original. Once a copyright has been recognized by the USPTO, the copyright holder has the exclusive right to use the protected work. Others may not reproduce, perform, display or copy the work without the permission of the copyright holder.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is business information that is commercially valuable but known to only a limited group of persons. This information is eligible for IP protection if the holder takes reasonable steps to keep it secret (for example, by requiring employees to sign confidentiality agreements). Trade secrets are the only type of intellectual property that is not regulated by the USPTO; instead, they are protected by state laws and local regulations. Trade secrets can be more difficult to protect for this reason. The San Jose intellectual property lawyers at Structure Law Group can help your business protect its trade secrets so as to maintain access to all IP protections available under California law.

The Right San Jose Intellectual Property Lawyers for California Business Owners

The experienced California IP lawyers at Structure Law Group have years of experience protecting all types of intellectual property. We serve business owners across many industries throughout San Jose and Silicon Valley. Call (408) 441-7500 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.