||Intellectual property traditionally refers to patents, copyrights,
trademarks, and trade secrets. Intellectual property law is the body
of law that strives to balance protection of human creativity and the benefit
to society that use of such creativity often provides. Intellectual
property is a form of property. It can be owned, sold, licensed,
and is protected by law. In some cases, rights in intellectual property
are established simply by the intellectual endeavor. In other cases,
rights in the intellectual property must be specifically requested and
granted. The appropriate type of intellectual property protection
often depends on nature of the intellectual property itself and there may
be more than one type of protection available.
Patents | Copyrights
| Trademarks | Trade
A key focus of my practice is assisting clients in acquiring and protecting
the value of their commercially valuable creative endeavors. These
endeavors, also known as intellectual property, include patents,
copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. I assist clients in the
Counseling regarding intellectual property protection strategies based
on an in-depth understanding of the client's business.
Counseling on strategies to avoid infringing the intellectual property
rights of others.
Acquiring intellectual property rights.
Licensing intellectual property rights.
A patent is an exclusive right granted by the U. S. government to inventors
that allows them to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale,
selling, or importing the invention into the United States. The power
to grant patents is constitutionally established, seeking "to promote the
progress of science and useful arts." In exchange for sharing an
invention with the public, the government grants the inventor a limited
monopoly (patent). The patent does not give the inventor any rights
to actually make, use, or sell the invention, but simply the right to prevent
others from doing so. The patent grant is for a limited duration.
After that period, the invention reverts to the public domain and anyone
can freely make use, use or sell the invention.
There are three types of patents:
Utility patents may be granted for any new and useful process, machine,
article of manufacture, or compositions of matters, or any new useful improvement
thereof. A utility patent can be maintained for up to twenty years
from the date on which the application was filed.
Design patents may be granted for a new, original, and ornamental design
for an article of manufacture. The term of design patent is fourteen years
from the date the patent is granted.
Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually
reproduces any distinct and new variety of plants.
Copyrights protect original works of authorship by providing authors
the exclusive right to reproduce their works. Copyright protection
is available to published and unpublished works. The protection arises
as soon as the work is fixed in any tangible medium of expression from
which it can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated.
Copyrightable works include:
Under current copyright law, the term of a copyright for works created
after January 1, 1978, is the life of the author plus 70 years. Terms
for anonymous works, pseudonymous works, and works made for hire are the
lesser of 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from
creation. The duration of copyright terms for works created prior
to 1978 varies.
musical works, including accompanying lyrics
dramatic works, including accompanying music
pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
motion pictures and other audio/visual works
No formalities are necessary to obtain copyright protection. However,
authors that register their works with the Copyright Office and place a
notice of copyright (e.g., ©) on copies of their works are provided
certain advantages when enforcing their copyrights under United States
Trademarks are words, phrases, symbols or designs, or combinations
of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identify and distinguish the
source of the goods of one party from those of others. Distinction
is a critical element in this definition. Trademark rights are typically
granted to words or symbols only for a particular category of goods or
services, not to the words or symbols in the abstract. In order to
be protected under trademark laws, a mark must distinguish the origin of
its associated goods, must do more than merely describe the goods, and
not be confusingly similar to marks used by others. Obscene marks
cannot be registered, nor will they be held valid in a dispute.
Trademark rights in the United States are established in two ways: through
actual use in commerce under state law and through registration with the
U.S. Trademark Office. Simply creating a mark is insufficient on
its own to qualify for legal protection of the trademark. Once established,
the trademark must be used consistently and continuously in commerce to
remain valid. Failure to do so or misuse of the mark can lead to
the loss of exclusive rights in the mark.
Trademarks should be designated any time rights in a mark are claimed.
Federal trademarks are generally designated by the ® symbol. Federal
trademark law limits use of the ® symbol to those marks that have been
registered with the U.S. Trademark Office; however, use of the ® is
not mandatory. Non-registered marks are typically signified by a
™ or SM designation.
A trade secret is information that is economically valuable because
it is not publicly known nor easily discovered by others and for which
the trade secret holder takes reasonable precautions to maintain its secrecy.
No formalities are required to obtain trade secret protection and the protection
endures for as long as the information remains secret.
Unlike patents, copyrights, and trademarks which are protected by federal
law, trade secrets are protected primarily by state law. Forty-five
states plus the District of Columbia have enacted laws based on the Uniform
Trade Secrets Act.