Biometric besides bulb with human brain, Intellectual property protection Concept

Trade Secrets vs Patents vs Copyrights

Caleb Bland Law, PLLC Nov. 21, 2023

At Caleb Bland Law, PLLC, we understand that your intellectual property is a valuable asset for your business. It's vital to protect it from unauthorized use or infringement. As a business owner, you have invested significant time and resources into developing your brand, products, or services. Any unauthorized use or misuse of your intellectual property can result in financial loss and damage to your reputation. 

As a full-service firm based in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, we offer comprehensive legal services to help protect your intellectual property rights. Our experienced attorneys can guide you through the process of obtaining patent protection for your inventions, registering trademarks for your brand, and registering copyrights for your original creative works. 

When you're ready to speak with an attorney about your intellectual property needs, reach out to our team at Caleb Bland Law, PLLC. We're proud to serve businesses, creatives, and inventors throughout our community and the surrounding areas.  

Why Protect Intellectual Property?

Protecting intellectual property is a crucial aspect for businesses to maintain a competitive edge. Intellectual property rights can help ensure your innovations and creations aren't exploited by others; they also offer legal protection and exclusive rights to you as the creator or owner of intangible creations like unique inventions, designs, artistic works, and trade secrets.  

By safeguarding your intellectual property, you can prevent unauthorized use, reproduction, or distribution, and maintain control over your valuable assets. This protection not only encourages innovation, but also fosters creativity and incentivizes businesses to invest in their own research and development. 

Trade Secrets vs. Patents vs. Copyrights

Each form of intellectual property protection serves different purposes and covers different types of assets. Small and large businesses alike need to understand these distinctions and choose the appropriate protection strategy based on their specific needs and goals. Let's break down the differences between trade secrets, patents, and copyrights: 

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are confidential and proprietary information that gives your business a competitive advantage. Examples include:  

  • customer lists,  

  • manufacturing processes,  

  • formulas,  

  • recipes, and  

  • marketing strategies.  

Unlike patents or copyrights, trade secrets are not publicly disclosed. Their protection stems from owners maintaining their secrecy through non-disclosure agreements, employment contracts, and other legal measures. 

A trade secret's term of protection is indefinite, as long as the information remains confidential. However, if a trade secret is revealed publicly or becomes common knowledge, it can no longer be protected. 


Patents protect inventions and grant exclusive rights to the inventor for a limited period. They provide the legal right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing the patented invention.  

Between October 1, 2021, and September 30, 2022, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office received 646,855 patent applications. Examples of patented inventions can include:  

  • new technology,  

  • unique machinery,  

  • innovative processes,  

  • newly discovered plants, and 

  • new chemical compounds.  

To obtain a patent, the invention must be novel, non-obvious, and have utility. Patents are publicly disclosed and require a detailed application process, including a description of the invention and its claims. There are utility patents, design patents, and plant patents, each with different requirements and terms of protection.  

A patent's term of protection is typically 20 years from the date of application filing. 


Copyrights protect original works of authorship. They give the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, display, perform, and create derivative works based on the original work.  

Examples of copyrighted works include:  

  • books,  

  • songs,  

  • paintings,  

  • sculptures,  

  • photographs, and  

  • software.  

Copyright protection arises automatically upon creation, but registration with the Copyright Office provides additional benefits, such as the ability to sue for infringement and claim statutory damages. 

A copyright's term of protection is the life of the creator plus 70 years after their death. For works made for hire, anonymous works, or pseudonymous works, the term is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation – whichever is shorter. 

How a Business Attorney Can Help

Navigating the nuances of intellectual property law can be challenging, but that's where our firm comes in. Here are a few ways we can assist: 

  1. Intellectual Property Strategy: We can assess your business's intellectual property assets, identify areas of vulnerability, and develop a comprehensive strategy to protect and enforce your rights. 

  1. Intellectual Property Registration: If you decide to pursue patent or copyright protection, we can guide you through the registration process. We can help prepare and file the necessary applications, ensuring compliance with legal requirements and maximizing the chances of successful registration. 

  1. Contracts and Licensing: Intellectual property often involves licensing agreements, contracts, and non-disclosure agreements. We can draft, review, and negotiate these agreements so that your rights are protected and your interests are represented. 

  1. Enforcement and Litigation: In the event of intellectual property infringement or disputes, we can represent your interests and take legal action to enforce your rights. 

  1. Due Diligence: If you’re considering acquiring or merging with another business, we can conduct intellectual property due diligence to assess the value and risks associated with their intellectual property assets. 

Protect Your Intellectual Property With Caleb Bland Law, PLLC

Consulting with a business attorney who's knowledgeable of intellectual property law can provide the guidance you need to safeguard your valuable assets and maintain your company's competitive edge. 

From small startups to established corporations, we understand the importance of protecting your intellectual property. Our skilled attorneys are dedicated to helping clients safeguard their valuable assets and achieve their professional goals. Contact us today at our firm in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can assist you with your intellectual property needs.