Stolen property is typically an obvious crime to identify. However, intellectual property can be a bit more complicated to recognize and enforce in Texas. According to Cornell Law School, intellectual property encompasses the intangible products of the human mind, including the communication of ideas, inventions, concepts and artistic creations. In most cases, this type of property is protected by copyrights, trademarks, patents and, less commonly, trade secrets.
Entrepreneur explores the various means of intellectual property protection. Trademarks, for instance, protect a company’s distinctive symbol, word or phrase. They may last indefinitely. The only stipulation is that the mark be used continuously, or for no more than a 10-year lapse. If a lapse of longer than 10 years does occur, the company must reapply for the trademark status. Trademarks may be granted before the unique feature is used, or it could be requested after a company has already started using it. A patent grants the creator of a product or idea a temporary monopoly. It requires that a particular creation be relevant as well as unique. It must not exist in a similar form already, and it should be useful in current culture. A patent application must disclose all the ingredients, processes or materials involved in the creation. Unlike trademarks, patents generally only last for 20 years.
One unique (and often difficult) way to protect intellectual property is through trade secrets. Essentially, a person or company simply does not disclose the particulars of the idea being used, thereby preventing other companies from copying it. However, this form of protection is not directly enforced by the government. Therefore, if a competitor attempts to copy the idea through trial and error, or through leaked information, there is generally no basis for legal recourse.