Intellectual property is characterized as an invention, creation, innovation, or discovery. Intellectual property includes trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and patents. Typically, the intellectual property must be relatively unique to be protected.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, logo, or other symbol used to identify a product, the source of a product, and the manufacturer or merchant. A trademark is usually used to differentiate one product and its manufacturer from another.
Before registering your trademark, it is crucial to run a trademark search to specify whether another company or entity is already using the same name. You do not want to develop a company name, run ads, design brochures and specific items, and be forced to change the name.
Common Types of Trademarks
There are many types of trademarks, such as:
- Service Mark: Rather than promoting a product, the service mark promotes a particular type of service
- Trade Dress: A product is sometimes known for its unique packaging or trade dress
- Collective Mark: A collective mark is a symbol, term, or word used to identify a group, organization, or association and the products, services, or members of the group
- Certification Mark: A certification mark is a logo or name used to ensure the quality of another’s service or product
What Is Copyright?
A copyright is a right to stop others from using your originally authored work. Copyright law is almost like trademark law, covering logos and brand names, which safeguards inventions. The item or work to be copyrighted should be an original and not a reproduction or copy of property already copyrighted.
Under the federal copyright law, copyright qualifies the owner for many exclusive privileges, such as the right to:
- Reproduce the copyrighted work
- Distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public for sale
- Perform the copyrighted work
- Rights to produce a license that is derived from other copyright materials
- Licensing rights to manufacture and make a product
What Are the Different Types of Copyrighted Works?
Copyrights can protect endless types of creative work, such as:
- Recorded or sheet music
- Books and novels
- Software codes, video games, and CD-ROMs, although these may not be shielded if they have already been circulated through a “copyleft” agreement
- Art, such as paintings, plays, dance choreography, and sculptures
What Is Copyright Protection?
Under federal law, you automatically get the copyright to your work once you have “fixed” your original work in a “tangible medium of expression.” You must have independently developed the work and not adapted it from something else. The work must also be placed in a sufficiently permanent medium so others can reproduce, view or communicate it.
Copyright protection emerges when an author fixes a work in a tangible form without the author having to do anything. Once a type of work has copyright protection, the inventor or creator determines who can use the work and for what purposes the work can be used. Once the work is protected, no one else can use the work without the creator’s approval.
What Are Trade Secrets?
Typically, a trade secret is valuable info that gives a business a competitive advantage over other businesses. The “information” can be a recipe, design, collection, agenda, machine, strategy, design, or procedure.
Particularly, a trade secret includes these three components:
- The info is not known to the public
- The info is economically advantageous to the holder
- The data holder makes reasonable efforts to keep its secrecy
How Do Businesses Protect Their Trade Secrets?
Businesses can lawfully defend their trade secrets by adding specific terms to employment agreements. Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) are the most precise protections. An NDA requires workers to keep business info secret. Businesses can also use Non-Compete Covenants to stop ex-employees from revealing trade secrets to competitors.
Businesses can also create guidelines and policies for employees using the trade secret and communications concerning the trade secret. Businesses can address these procedures in training or orientations as soon as the worker is hired. The organization should communicate its intention to preserve the confidentiality of the trade secret.
What Is a Patent?
You want to shield your invention from unauthorized use and distribution as an inventor. Under federal patent regulation, a patent is given to an inventor to ban others from “making, using, offering for sale or selling the invention” in the United States. Therefore, a patent is granted to an inventor to guard their invention.
Patents generally exist for twenty years and can be used for any invention in any technology field. Patents are part of international agreements with the World Trade Organization (WTO), so member nations are expected to acknowledge and execute legal patents.
Types of Inventions that Can Be Patented
Generally, the invention must be new, unique, and generally unobvious to receive a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. There are different patents available depending on the thing you wish to patent:
- Utility Patent: Typically, the invention must be a function or process with a concrete result, a machine, a chemical or biological composition of matter, or an invention improvement. The invention must also be moderately useful to qualify for a utility patent.
- Design Patent: Typically, the design must be novel, non-obvious, and nonfunctional.
- Plant Patent: Plants that you create can be patented. The plant must be novel and non-obvious. Naturally occurring substances, laws of nature, ideas, and calculation methods, among other things, cannot be patented.
What Are the Differences Among Trade Secrets, Trademarks, and Patents?
Various statutes cover the sources of intellectual property—federal regulations (namely, the Lanham Act and the Patent Act) shield trademarks and patents. For the most part, state regulation covers trade secrets, and most states have passed the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA). Nevertheless, the stealing or misappropriation of some trade secrets is a federal crime. Also, trademarks and patents are not kept secret from the public. On the other hand, trade secrets are hidden from the public because if the knowledge becomes public, the trade secret holder will lose its financial edge.
Ultimately, trademarks and patents are subject to several legal exemptions that do not apply to trade secrets. Individuals can usually make satire or parody trademarks such as parodies and satires, traditionally protected speech by the First Amendment. Furthermore, patents typically expire after twenty years, while trade secrets can extend indefinitely.
Why Are There International Laws Protecting Intellectual Property?
International business has grown tremendously over the past few years. Internet use has let individuals access data from all over the globe. Luckily, many nations have formed international regulations that provide global security for all intellectual property.
What Are Some Examples of International Laws That Protect Intellectual Property?
International organizations and treaties have adopted international laws and conferences to protect intellectual property globally. Here are some examples:
- Berne Convention of 1886: This was one of the first treaties that ensured that intellectual property rights were recognized in every country participating in the convention.
- TRIPS Agreement of 1994: This agreement ensured that participating countries, in their domestic regulations, had protection and remedies for intellectual property violations.
- World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty of 1996: This treaty endeavored to update past treaties to deal with copyright infringement on the internet.
What Can an Attorney Do for Me?
Some experienced attorneys specialize in international law and its relation to intellectual property. If your intellectual property rights have been violated abroad or on the internet, contact an intellectual property attorney to learn more about your rights and defenses. There is protection for intellectual property worldwide, and you should use it to your advantage.