ip law

IP rights grant privileges to individuals or entities regarding their creations for a specific period. With these rights, holders can use their intellectual property as they see fit. Understanding the duration of these rights can help you plan for the expiration of legal protections. Here are a few key points to know about how long you can expect certain intellectual property rights to last.

Types of Intellectual Property Rights

There are two main categories of IP rights, and they include:

Copyright and Related Rights

This category protects artistic and literary works, such as:

  • Books
  • Written materials
  • Music
  • Films
  • Computer programs

Performers, broadcasting organizations, and record producers also receive copyright or neighboring rights protections.

Industrial Property

This category includes trademarks, which distinguish one business’s products or services from others in the same category. Other industrial property types include:

  • Patent-protected inventions
  • Trade secrets
  • Industrial designs

How Long Do These Rights Last?

The International Trade Administration (ITA) notes that certain types of intellectual property, such as copyrights and patents, have limited terms. However, trademarks and trade secrets may last indefinitely if certain requirements are met.

Intellectual Property Rights Protection Can Vary

The expiration of IP rights depends on the type of protected work. Look at these classifications to determine when legal protections may end for your creation.


Registered trademarks typically last indefinitely in the United States if continuously used, maintained, and defended against infringement. Owners must file maintenance documents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and pay the required fees every five to 10 years.

Unregistered trademarks may receive limited common law protections in specific geographical areas.


For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright lasts for the author’s lifetime plus an additional 70 years after their death. Anonymous, pseudonymous, or works made for hire have protection for 120 years from creation or 95 years from publication, whichever is shorter.

Creative works published between January 1, 1978, and March 1, 1989, without a copyright notice, have become part of the public domain.

Works published before January 1, 1978, have different copyright duration rules. They have a maximum copyright term of 95 years from publication.

Works created before 1978 but not published have a maximum duration of 70 years after the author’s death or December 31, 2002, whichever is later.

Design and Utility Patents

Design patents protecting ornamental designs last 14 or 15 years from the grant date and do not require maintenance fees.

Utility patents protecting machines and processes last 20 years from the filing date. Along with that, maintenance fees must be paid at specific intervals.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are confidential information that provides a competitive advantage. Legal rights remain indefinite as long as:

  • All information stays private
  • Reasonable steps are taken to protect it
  • The trade secret retains commercial value

Keep Your Intellectual Property Protected With Assistance from BOAG Law

Understanding the timeline for IP rights is crucial for creators and businesses. Individuals and entities can make informed decisions and safeguard their valuable creations by being aware of the expiration dates and taking necessary steps to protect their IP.BOAG Law provides comprehensive assistance with intellectual property matters, including patent and trademark applications, copyright registrations, license agreements, and litigation. To learn more about our services, please contact us online or call 212-203-6651 for a complimentary consultation.