Protecting Intellectual Property
Intellectual property law protects creative works from being pirated.
- Protecting Intellectual Property
Intellectual property laws protect original creative works from theft.
Different federal laws cover four kinds of intellectual property:
- trade secrets
The different kinds of laws offer different protections for different types of property.
Copyright laws protect certain original works by giving the creator of a work rights. Some examples include:
- The right to public display
- The right to distribution
- The right to adaptation
- The right to public performance
- The right to control reproduction
- The right to translate to other media
- The right to translate into other languages
Examples of works covered by copyright laws include:
- Short stories
- Computer software
Some works that aren't covered by copyright laws include:
- Book titles
- Business names
The ownership of copyright begins when a work is created. No application or registration is necessary. Howover, the work may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to enforce its ownership in court. Copyrights generally last for 70 years after the author's death.
A patent is an exclusive ownership right to machines, substances or processes. Possession of a patent gives the inventor the right to stop others from using, making and selling the invention without permission. A violation of this right is called infringement.
Inventors must apply to the federal government to receive a patent. If A patent is granted, the government publishes a full description of the invention and its use. A patent usually lasts for 20 years from the date the application is filed.
A trademark is an identifying mark that distinguishes goods or services. The primary purpose of trademarking is to prevent consumer confusion over the origin of the products. To be a trademark, the mark must be identified in the minds of consumers with a particular source of goods or service. Many things can be considered trademarks, including:
- Graphic designs
- Distinct sounds and smells
It's possible to check to see if a mark has been registered. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database contains registered trademarks.
A registration application filed with the USPTO online will reveal if a mark is available. A USPTO examiner will conduct a review of existing marks. If no identical or similar mark exists, the application is approved.
Trademarks can be renewed forever as long as they're being used in commerce.
- Trade Secrets
Trade secrets can be any type of information about a product or service that's generally not known. They give the owner of the secret an advantage in the marketplace. Examples of trade secrets include:
- Chemical formulas
- Industrial processes
- Customer lists
- Business plans
Most businesses have some type of trade secret they don't want their competitors to find out. They take reasonable precautions to protect the information. Restricting access and requiring passwords are ways of protecting trade secrets.
A business may become concerned when an employee leaves the company. A former employee could go to some other company and share the secret information they learned at the previous job. To prevent that, some employers require employees to sign non-disclosure contracts. Non-compete contracts may also be used to prevent former employees from working for competitors for a certain amount of time.
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© 2011 Dr. Anthony Curtis, Mass Communication Dept., University of North Carolina at Pembroke e-mail home page