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updated 10/9/2014 10:15:12 PM ET 2014-10-10T02:15:12

The trouble with intellectual property is that it’s tricky to hide. At the same time, the stakes for keeping your ideas secret can be high.

For many entrepreneurs, the life or death of a business can hinge on whether their intellectual property is protected, and how. Intellectual property can mean everything from the engineering behind a machine to a production process to a design, color or particular phrase of words.

Related: Patent Reform and the Future of Innovation

In the U.S., there are four main ways to protect an idea. One option is to file a patent. Depending on the sort of patent an inventor seeks, a patent can legally protect intellectual property for up to 20 years. Last year, more than 600,000 patents were filed in the U.S.

Take a look at this infographic from Mesa, Ariz.-based law firm Cook & Cook, embedded below, to find out how else you can keep your ideas private and what each sort of protection each option affords you.  

 

Related: Why Protecting Intellectual Property Is Crucial to Business Success on 5 Counts

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