Intellectual Property Law is an area of law that is focused on who has the rights to and who owns different kinds of intangible assets. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are all considered intellectual property. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents may apply to books, songs, artistic works, or inventions. Someone who obtains a copyright has the exclusive right to exercise control over copying of the work for a specific period of time. For a person to become a copyright owner, the person’s work must be fixed in a tangible medium. An example of this fixation would be an author who writes a book and has it written and compiled in a tangible form. Lawsuits for copyright infringement are disputes about intellectual property. Copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of works covered by copyright law that violates a copyright owner’s rights. For example, someone who stages a play that the play’s author has copyright for without that author’s consent can be said to have committed copyright infringement.
A trademark is a distinctive sign or logo used by an individual or business. One example of a trademark would be the Nike Swoosh design that is featured on Nike clothing and sneakers. The owner of a registered trademark may bring suit for trademark infringement to prevent unauthorized use of that trademark. A trademark can apply to goods or services. There are a number of defenses to trademark infringement which include abandonment, limitations based on geographic area, and fair use. In the United States, the fair use defense is designed to protect free speech and free expression. Fair use may be asserted if the alleged infringer is using the mark to describe accurately an aspect of its product or if the alleged infringer is using the mark to identify the mark owner. Trademark law is designed to protect consumers by preventing the public from being misled about the quality of a service or product or who the provider of a certain product is.
A patent is a set of exclusive rights that is granted to an inventor for a limited period of time. An inventor can receive a patent for his creation if the invention is novel, non-obvious, and useful. If an inventor does receive a patent, he can prevent others from making, using, or selling the invention without permission. Like any other property right, a patent may be sold, assigned, transferred, or given away. In a suit for patent infringement, a patent owner will seek monetary compensation for past infringement and an injunction preventing the defendant from continuing to infringe. A common defense in lawsuits involving patents is that the patent owner never received a valid patent for one reason or another. The patent system is designed to promote invention and research. Additionally, granting patents encourages inventors to share their work with the public so that the public may benefit.
Trade secrets are also categorized as intellectual property. Trade secrets protect confidential business information. Trade secrets can include things such as business plans, chemical formulas, or customer lists. An example of a trade secret could be the recipe that a successful restaurant uses to make its marinara sauce. The recipe may be considered a trade secret. Another example of a trade secret would be how a computer software company plans to design a new software product. Companies can protect these types of trade secrets through the use of non-compete and non-disclosure contracts with employees. Unlike a patent, the ability to protect a trade secret does not expire. In the United States, trade secrets are protected under state laws. In conclusion, intellectual property law protects the creative works of authors, musicians, designers, and inventors.