What is Intellectual Property Law?
Intellectual property is any product of human intellect that the law protects from unauthorized use. Examples of intellectual property could be inventions, writing, music, designs, and other works. Intellectual property law can be understood in relation to tangible property law. Like tangible property law, intellectual property law looks to give a bundle of rights to the property owner. There are important differences, however. Where the core of tangible property law is exclusive ownership of real and personal property, like land and personal possessions, intellectual property law’s core is to provide an incentive to individuals to create works beneficial to the public by restricting public use to compensate the creator. Intellectual property law traditionally consists of four categories: Patents, Copyright, Trademarks, and Trade Secrets.
Patents give inventors protections for their new inventions. These inventions could be new machines, technological improvements, and manufactured goods, including the look of the product. The purpose of these protections is to prevent others from producing, using, distributing, or importing the protected item without consent of the inventor. Depending on the invention, patent rights can last up to 20 years. Patents can be denied, however, if the design is too obvious, not useful, or morally offensive.
Copyrights protect the rights of a creators work in writings, music, motion pictures, architecture, and other original intellectual and artistic expressions. These protections are meant to protect an owner if others copy or present their work without their permission. A copyright does not apply to abstract theories or ideas. Copyrights tend to last the lifetime of the creator, plus 70 years.
Trademarks protect symbols, names, and slogans that are used to identify particular goods and services. This protection allows the owner to prevent others from using their mark or marks to avoid consumers from being confused in regard to the source of the goods or services. These rights can potentially last forever and while not required, owners can register their marks for additional protection.
Trade secrets are business practices, formulas, designs, or processes used in a business to give that particular business a competitive advantage. Trade secrets are not known by competitors and their owners take reasonable efforts to maintain its confidentiality.
Who Regulates Intellectual Property Law?
Different institutions, both federal and state, work to regulate the different categories of intellectual property law. The “intellectual property clause” of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to regulate patents and copyright. Through this power, the U.S. Patent andTrademark Office (PTO) was formed to be responsible for the issuing and monitoring of patents and trademarks. Copyrights are exclusively regulated under federal law and must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to receive protections. Trade secrets are primarily regulated under state law. The Uniform Trade Secrets Act, legislation formulated by the Uniform LawCommission, brought continuity and regularity for trade secret protections to the 48 states, including Utah, that adopted it. This legislation worked to define trade secrets and describe claims related to trade secret violations.
What Do Intellectual Property Lawyers Do?
Intellectual property lawyers primarily work to counsel, protect, and enforce your intellectual property rights.
Counsel: Counseling primarily centers on helping clients to best protect their piece of intellectual property. In trademark law, for example, the lawyer will conduct searches on already existing trademarks and communicate with the client regarding its availability. If a client has already invested time and effort into a product that has been found to have a prior use in a similar industry, the lawyer will counsel on best practices to modify or abandon the client’s mark.
Protect: Protecting the intellectual property involves registering the trademark, patent or copyright in order to ensure the greatest protections for the client. For patents and trademarks, for example, this would involve preparing and filing and application with the PTO and responding to required actions for that application.
Enforce: Enforcement entails protecting the intellectual property owner from infringement on their intellectual property. Proper enforcement may even require litigation in court.
If you have created or seek to create something unique, intellectual property lawyers can help to protect your rights. If the rights to this unique product have been violated, an intellectual property lawyer can help you effectively respond.