Intellectual Property Sub Topics

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Searching for legal advice about Intellectual Property? Look no further. The articles and answers here contain a wealth of information regarding communications law, copyright and trademark law, music law, trade secrets, patents, and more. Intellectual property (IP) refers to intangible property like ideas, thoughts, pictures, images and brands. Because this type of property is not easy to valuate, regulation is required to prevent theft or ownership violations. Intellectual property laws are designed to give inventors or creators ownership and enforcement rights to their creative ideas or identifying images.

Types of Intellectual Property

A copyright prevents people from reprinting and selling someone else’s already-published book or other written or recorded material. Essentially, copyrights protect written ideas and thoughts. Examples of this type of intellectual property include books, manuscripts, song lyrics, and poems.

A patent prevents someone else from using a design process, formula or invention that belongs to another. Patents tend to focus on how a product is developed or the function of the invention. For example, car makers are beginning to install buttons to start engines, rather than having the engine activated by the turning of a key. This new technology or process would be protected by a patent.

Trademarks protect the symbols or logos used to represent a company or a product; these are the marks or designs that consumers use to identify with and distinguish between products. Examples include the Nike check symbol, the Harley Davidson logo, or the Covergirl Cosmetics reversed “C” and “G” emblem. These organizations protect their trademarks so that others cannot taint the use of their products’ good name.

It is important to understand the type of intellectual property your work falls under before filing for protection, this is because laws vary for each sub-group of property.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property laws are designed to protect ideas and provide legal remedies for a creator in the event of a violation. However, a creator will only have recourse after taking the proper steps to secure ownership interests. In some instances, multiple avenues of protection may be necessary. For example, several years ago, Xerox required both patent protection for their ideas and processes, as well as trademark protection for their brand name. Failure to properly file for protection could result in an inventor’s ideas being stolen or used with no recourse.

In addition to general IP protections, an inventor or company may wish to establish contractual provisions concerning their trade secrets before allowing another individual or group to view their information. Trade secret protections can offer legal assurance that the viewing party cannot exploit any information revealed during negotiations.

Intellectual Property Violations and Infringements

Infringement is merely a fancy term for violation. Intellectual property violations and infringements occur when another person or company steals intellectual property that is legally protected in one of the ways discussed above (i.e. through a copyright, patent, or trademark). Continuing with the Xerox example, if someone decided they liked the name “Xerox” and wanted to use the name and logo for a new line of athletic gear, the Xerox Corporation could sue for damages and obtain a restraining order to prevent the new company from using their hard-earned name. What damages may be available to the inventor or creator depend on how their property was stolen, how it was used, and the financial impact sustained from the use.

Regardless of the type of remedy sought in an infringement claim, most related laws require a federal lawsuit. This tends to throw people off because they see agencies as the keepers of intellectual property. Although inventors do file for protection with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), this agency is not generally required to file an enforcement action on an inventor’s or creator’s behalf when an infringement occurs. A creator can represent him or herself in a lawsuit but will be required to conform to the federal rules of procedure just as any other plaintiff.

If the violating company or person lives in, or uses the intellectual property in, another country, a lawsuit will likely need to be filed in that country. International laws and procedures can be very complex. An IP attorney with experience in international law will be best suited to assist with a binational infringement lawsuit.

Only a person or entity that has filed for protection or has purchased the rights to the property can file a claim for infringements. One of the most famous examples is the estate of Michael Jackson. Although he has passed on, his estate maintains intellectual property rights to music by The Beatles. While he was still alive, Michael Jackson purchased the rights to that property. Should someone attempt to illegally use this music, the estate of Michael Jackson would have the right to file an infringement lawsuit.

Know the Laws for Your Situation

Keep in mind that not all intellectual property is protected forever. Patents, for example, are only good for 20 years. Other types of IP protections require an inventor to update their application annually. Failure to properly update the necessary information can result in loss of protection and remedies for the inventor or creator.

If you have a great idea or concept, take the steps to understanding how intellectual property laws work and how they can protect and preserve your rights to that idea. To learn more about intellectual property laws, refer to the links to articles, interviews and videos above.