Have you ever wondered what Coca-Cola actually puts into its soda? Or what about the "special sauce" that your local sandwich shop uses on its signature menu item? These are examples of "trade secrets," or pieces of knowledge that are not generally known and that have value because their discovery is not wide-spread. Trade secrets make many businesses hum and without them, few people would care to dream up original or new ideas.
People create original works all of the time. When they do, they may find that their work is so valued and desired that people replicate or disseminate their work in ways that the creator finds improper. So who does a creator protect his or her original works? This is where copyright law comes into play.
If you've ever applied for a patent, you know that there often is a substantial amount of time between when you apply and when you receive an answer. This often is due to the amount of time an examiner needs to review your patent application.