Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce.
IP is projected in law by, for example patents, copyright, and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.
(definition from the World Intellectual Property Organization: http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/)
Patent and copyright law is authorized by the U.S. Constitution and is designed to promote innovation, progress and transformation of ideas.
The Congress shall have power... to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.
-Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 (https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/overview)
Patent (as defined by the WIPO) is and exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.
There are 3 types of patents:
Trademark (as defined by WEX) is any word, name, symbol, or design, or any combination thereof, used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another to indicate the sources of the goods.
Copyright (as defined by the U.S. Copyright Office) is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright cover published and unpublished works.
Trade Secrets (as defined by the USPTO) consist of information and can include a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process. To meet the most common definition of a trade secret, it must be used in business, and give and opportunity to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.