In the state of California, intellectual property is divided into four major areas: Trade Secrets, Trademark, Copyright and Patent. Each has its own legal protection. Violating intellectual property laws is a punishable offense.
Trade Secrets: this is a concept that is derived from competitive economic value due to its very secrecy. A trade secret is maintained as confidential by its rightful owner. A trade secret can alternatively be protected legally by a patent. Because patent applications become public, a trade secret is only kept so by the confines of confidentiality.
Trademark: A trademark is a name, symbol, word, sound or defining characteristic which makes consumers think about a product. For example, the Nike swoosh can stand alone and consumers will know that the company behind the product is, in fact, Nike.
Copyright: Works created in tangible format are protected by copyright. Examples of things that may be copywritten are videos, recordings, books, journal articles and computer software. Any person who has a copyright may license the right to that product to others as they deem fit.
Patent: When someone obtains a patent for their invention, they are effectively eliminating the possibility that anyone else can legally recreate the product. Patents must be applied for and approved. Once approved, a patent is valid for 20 years.
Violating the restrictions set forth by trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights or patents is considered to be a crime against intellectual property. This is a crime that is punishable by fines and, in serious cases, prison time.