Every business has intellectual property, whether it realizes it or not. Intellectual property is a general term that refers to a variety of legal mechanisms to protect intangible assets of a business. Some forms of intellectual property are identified by a printed certificate issued by either the federal or state government, while others have been developed by the courts over time in recognition over what is fair and important to business and the public, referred to as the "common law." Other types of intellectual property take both forms. Each form of intellectual property has its own rules and requirements for achieving protection.
The most common forms of intellectual property fall into the following categories, with examples of the business assets protected: