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Types of Intellectual Property To Leverage As Revenue In Your Business

Intellectual property, or IP, represents untapped potential for return on investment for many businesses. Across industries, creating intellectual property comes as an incidental byproduct of doing business. Schematics, designs, processes, and more all represent intellectual property. Odds are good that any representative business has produced intellectual property worth leveraging as an income stream.

In order to turn intellectual property into revenue streams, though, a business has to know what they have in their IP portfolio. An in-depth audit of the IP in a given business may yield a diverse portfolio of intellectual property that a business can leverage revenue.

If you aren’t sure where to start, look over these basic examples of intellectual property that might be in your intellectual property portfolio.

Four Types of Intellectual Property

What are the types of intellectual property you should be leveraging in your business? There are four basic types of intellectual property. All of them have nuanced differences representing different opportunities.

Familiarize yourself with the four types of IP before making any decisions about what to do with your IP portfolio.


Patents grant property rights to inventions. Inventions can refer to either machines or processes. Patent holders own exclusive rights to the use of the intellectual property protected by the patent. Many tech companies protect new technologies they develop by taking out patents on them. However, patents can protect more kinds of intellectual property than technological developments.

Within the broader category of patent, there are three basic types of patents:

  • Design patents: These protect the aesthetic of a given product, device, or invention. Distinctive visual features are protected under patent.

  • Plant patents: These protect new varieties of plants, created by grafting or by genetic modification.

  • Utility patents: These protect a product with a practical purpose, such as software, mechanical systems, or pharmaceuticals. The largest area of patent law pertains to utility patents.


Trademarks protect distinctive visual and audio elements used by a company, usually as part of its branding. Often trademarks protect logos and design elements used by the company that represents the brand. Some examples include the bronze and gold coloration of Duracell batteries or the ornament on the front of a BMW.

Patents protect one product, but trademarks protect reproducible design elements.


Copyrights protect the rights of the original creator of the intellectual property. Whereas trademarks more broadly protect design elements, copyright has to apply to something tangible. It is possible to copyright a speech, for instance, but only the written or otherwise recorded version of that speech.

Protection by copyright comes into effect when someone creates an original work of ownership, or OWA. A creator owns the copyright of whatever they make, but formally registering copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office creates preemptive protection in the event of a lawsuit involving copyright infringement.

Trade Secrets

If intellectual property has economic value and carries information, and it isn’t public information, then it falls under the category of a trade secret. Trade secrets might be design specifications, recipes, or internal processes that a company can repeat and use to its competitive advantage.

Not all internal processes qualify as trade secrets. Protecting intellectual property in the form of trade secrets requires preemptive work.

Trade secrets can be either tangible or intangible.

Intellectual Property in the Digital Age

Once you know what the four types of intellectual property are, then it becomes possible to conduct an internal audit and figure out what’s in your IP portfolio. 

It may turn out that your company has quite a lot of intellectual property that’s not yet included in your IP portfolio. There also may be a lot of intellectual property in the possession of your company that still needs the proper legal protections put into place. In some cases, it may be obvious what kind of legal protections a given piece of intellectual property needs, but sometimes it won’t be clear.

To improve your intellectual property portfolio, it can be powerful to bring in outside experts to audit the portfolio for unrealized sources of revenue from IP already owned by your company. You may not have leveraged all of your IP assets for as much profitability as the property is worth.

Many companies invest in patent development, but few realize the full revenue generation potential of their intellectual property portfolio. Capitalizing on the value of assets requires a critical evaluation of an asset’s worth in light of business goals and market potential. Patent holders that adopt a rigorous approach to evaluation, management, and monetization of IP, and embrace patent monetization in the digital age could double their return on intellectual property investments.

To learn more about capitalizing on potential portfolio value and optimizing patent monetization opportunities through a strategic approach, download our white paper. At UnitedLex, we’ve fine-tuned our approach to monetizing patent portfolios for our clients to maximize the profitability of their IP portfolios.

With more than 3,000 legal, engineering, and technology professionals globally, UnitedLex enables legal organizations to thrive in the Digital Age.

Over the past 15 years, we have successfully delivered Intellectual Property Management, eDiscovery, Source Code and Document Review, IP Monetization, and Contract Lifecycle Management Solutions to over 25% of the Global 500, 30% of the Fortune 50, and 50% of the Am Law 100.

Contact UnitedLex to learn more about transforming your Intellectual Property into revenue and to learn more about our broader programs for Digital Legal Transformation.

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