Patent attorney Patent lawyer serving Crossville, Cookeville, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Maryville, Nashville, Sevierville, Johnson City, Bristol, Morristown, Kingsport, Jefferson City, Oak Ridge, East Tennessee. Knox Patents: Kulaga Law Office, Knoxville 37901
Your East Tennessee source for Patent Attorneys and Intellectual Property services

Kulaga Law Office, PLLC


Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 30034
Knoxville, TN 37930-0034
Physical Address:
8044 Ray Mears Blvd, Ste 108
Knoxville, Tenn. 37919

Intellectual Property Information

Property is something that can be owned, and, consequently, bought and sold. Everyone is familiar with real estate, which is one type of property. Intellectual property is property that begins as an idea, that is, it is created in the mind. Intellectual Property is intangible property. Unlike real property such as land, intellectual property does not exist in a physical form. Intellectual property has value because of our legal system. Each country has its own laws relating to what constitutes intellectual property and the protection it can receive. In the United States, intellectual property includes patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.

Some forms of intellectual property are represented by paper, for example, the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) sends the patent owner a Letters Patent when a patent issues. But, the Letters Patent is not a title to the patent or the original idea. The Letters Patent is just a certificate issued to the patent owner.

Table 1 below summarizes the major differences between a patent, a copyright, a trademark, and a trade secret with respect to protecting that intellectual property within the United States. For more information regarding patents, see the Patent FAQ. For other info, see the White Papers listed on the IP Links page. The white papers include information for Independent Inventors. The papers also include information on IP Considerations for Businesses and Patent Strategies, along with information on the America Invents Act of 2011.

There are types of intellectual property that do not fall with the four categories listed in the table. For example, there are specific laws relating to mask works and boat hull designs. Please feel free to contact a patent attorney at Knox Patents for a full explanation of this table and for other information regarding intellectual property protection.

Table 1: Intellectual Property Protection

. Patent Copyright Trademark * Trade Secret *
Purpose To protect an invention To protect creative expression To identify and distinguish the source of goods and/or services To keep information secret
Requirements Invention must be useful, new, and not obvious Expression of work fixed in tangible form Used in commerce or intent to use for federal registration Information not known in trade and gives competitive advantage
Government Review PTO examines patent applications Copyright Office examines PTO or state examines;
No Examination if common law mark
Legal Effect Excludes others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing into the US during term of patent Excludes others from copying or using form of expression Excludes use by others if the use is likely to confuse the public Excludes use of secret gained through improper means by others under state laws
Term For utility patent: 20 years from date of filing;

For design patent: 14 years from issue

Life of author plus 70 years;

Work for hire is shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation

Federal registration:10 years with unlimited 10 year renewals;

State: varies (TN is 5 years with renewal)

As long as secret is maintained

* Unlike Patents and Copyrights, which are exclusively regulated by United States federal law, Trademarks and Trade Secrets are also subject to state laws, which vary depending upon the state. An attorney should be consulted before acting on any information contained in this table.

Download a pdf version of the above table. In order to view, print, or search a portable document format (pdf) file, an imaging program capable of displaying the pdf file must be installed on your computer. The Adobe AcrobatReader is one such program.


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Letters Patent issued by the PTO to the inventor of a patent

The information on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult a patent attorney or a patent lawyer for individual advice regarding your particular situation.

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