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Copyright, Intellectual Property, and Plagiarism

A brief guide for students and faculty on the differences and similarities of intellectual properties, including copyright, and their resposibilites when using intellecutal properties


A trademark is any single or combination of words, symbol, or design that identifies and singles out a product's creator as different from its competitors. A servicemark is any single or combination of words, symbol, or design that identifies a service provider and is usually considered under the umbrella of trademarks.

  • Nike Swoosh and McDonald's Golden Arches
  • The Lion Roar from MGM Studio Inc. films
  • Tiffany Blue and Barbie Pink


Patents are rights granted by the federal government and cover original inventions and guarantees exclusive rights for a limited term to the inventor. There are three types of patents for which an inventor can apply: utility patents, design patents and plant patents.

  • The Edison light bulb
  • Bluetooth technology
  • The Rubik's Cube

Industrial Designs

The legal protection of exclusive rights granted for a product’s appearance not related to its functionality for a limited term. Industrial design rights cover any single or combination of shape, configuration, and composition of pattern or color in two- or three-dimentions. 

  • The Coke bottle
  • Lego figure 
  • The Mini Cooper car

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are information or techniques that hold enough financial value for the creator to keep that information or technique secret. Trade secrets are usually protected by non-disclosure agreements (a legal contract prohibiting the sharing of the information or technique) and not by legislation because registration makes that information public. Therefore, the term limit on trade secrets is only specified by the non-disclosure agreement and can be kept indefinitely.

  • KFC’s 11 herbs and spice mix
  • WD-40 
  • Google's Search Algorithm


Designations of Origin

Designations of origin are applied to food products or agricultural product in which the definging characteristics of the product are dependant on the region and specific techniques used in its production to insure quality.

  • Champagne is from Champagne region of France
  • Egyptian Cotton is from the Nile River Valley in Egypt
  • Prosciutto di Parma or Parma ham is produced in the Italian province of Parma