Inventors and creators can protect ideas from theft by getting patents, trademarks and copyright, or by making them a trade secret.
A patent is an agreement between the inventor and the government. The inventor agrees to reveal information about the invention to the public and, in return, the government grants the inventor a patent. A patent gives the inventor the exclusive right to make and sell the invention for a specific period of time.
Trademarks say a product is unique and there is no other like it. Look for a ™ or a ® on the labels of clothing and other merchandise. The ™ stands for trademark and anyone can use this symbol to protect the name of something, and the ® stands for a trademark that has been formally registered with the government and, as a result, is better protected. Apple ®, registered its name with the government, and no other computer company can use the same name.
Shhh…don’t tell anyone. Not all great ideas are patented. Some inventors decide they can protect their invention by keeping how it’s made a secret. The formula for Coca Cola™ is a secret. But, the name of the company is trademarked.
Works of art like books, paintings and even drawings for inventions are legally protected by copyright. Unlike patents, getting a copyright for a creative product is really easy AND free. You can do it yourself by putting the copyright symbol “©”, the year, and your name on the thing you created.