How should I protect my intellectual property?

Different types of intellectual property are protected by different means.

In the U.S., patents may be available to any person who "invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof."  Patent protection must be sought by application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  There are three types of patents:

  1. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
  2. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
  3. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

More information on patents is available here:
Online IPR Tutorial (Module 3)
USPTO’s patent process website

Trademarks protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. Registration with the USPTO is not required, but does provide certain advantages. More information on trademarks is available here:
Online IPR Tutorial (Module 3)
USPTO’s trademark process website

Copyrights protect original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other works, both published and unpublished. In the United States, the U.S. Copyright Office handles copyright registration that, although not required for protection, does confer advantages. More information on copyrights is available here:
Online IPR Tutorial (Module 3)
U.S. Copyright Office website