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Wyoming Business Tips for June 15-23

June 6, 2014

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Doran Fluckiger, Wyoming Entrepreneur SBDC southwest regional director

“Should my business obtain a trademark, patent, trade secret or copyright?” Adrian, Wheatland

Intellectual property is any product of the human intellect that is unique, novel and unobvious and has some value in the marketplace.

The most common types of intellectual property protection are: trademark, patent, trade secret or copyright.

A trademark is a word, name, symbol, sound or color that distinguishes goods and services. Trademarks can prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark. Examples of trademarks include Burger King and Kinko’s.

A patent for an invention grants a property right to the inventor. With a patent, a person has the right to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention described in the patent deed. A patent gives the developer of the new product time to recover development expenditures and start-up costs without having to fight competition.

A copyright is a form of legal protection for original works of authorship. Generally, the owner of the copyright is given exclusive rights to reproduce the copyrighted work; prepare derivative works; distribute copies of the copyrighted work; perform the copyrighted work publicly; or display the copyrighted work publicly. Examples of copyrights include works by authors, songs of musicians, graphics, movies and more.

A trade secret is any piece of information that a company keeps secret to give them an advantage over their competitors. Trade secrets are not known by the public and include formulas, business plans, designs and procedures. Coca-Cola’s formula, for example, is arguably the most famous trade secret and is more than 100 years old.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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