Find Intellectual Property Lawyer

Find Intellectual Property Lawyer

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property or IP law refers to laws and regulations that protect and enforce the rights of creators and owners of "intellectual property," which can include inventions, writing, music, designs and other works. In essence, intellectual property laws in the United States are intended to provide creators with ethical rights of legal expression, as well as to encourage fair competition. Patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets all fall under intellectual property law, each with its own set of rules and applications that allow people to earn financial advantages and recognition for their creations and property.

Patents

A patent is a type of governmental grant that allows one to protect an invention. In exchange for a complete disclosure of the invention, a patent works by providing the inventor with exclusive rights to the patented process, design, or invention.

There are three main types of patents in the US: utility patents, design patents and plant patents. These patents are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. According to USPTO laws, patents can be granted to someone who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent, subject to the conditions and requirements of the law.”

In most cases, patents remain valid for 20 years, starting from the date of application with the USPTO. Since the United States patent system only protects inventors within the country, those seeking international IP protection must file patent applications with the relevant government authority of the other countries.

Copyright

In the United States, some creative work is automatically protected by copyright. Work must be original and independently created as well as fixed in a tangible form in order to qualify for copyright. Copyright protects the tangible form of the work only, not the idea behind it.

For example, if you write a book, its exact content will be protected by copyright. However, copyright does not prevent others from using similar ideas for their own books. Registration of copyright is highly advised for all original and tangible work as it establishes a public record of ownership and is necessary in order to press charges for copyright infringement. Copyright registration also allows creators to claim compensation for damages for copyright infringement without having to prove said damages.

Generally, work created after January 1, 1978 is protected by copyright for the life of the creator plus an additional 70 years. Original work created before 1978 is protected for 28 years, with the option of renewal later on.

Trademark

The term trademark refers to a recognizable image, phrase, word, or symbol identifying a product and legally distinguishing it from similar products. Trademarks prevent others from using a company's or individual's intellectual property without permission. Unlike copyright, trademarks are not granted automatically and may or may not be registered. Registered trademarks are granted through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and are recognized by the ® symbol. Alternatively, unregistered trademarks are identified by the ™ symbol.

The "First to Use'' system determines who owns a trademark based on the first use of the product in the market. As a result, the party who used a product first in a commercial setting owns the right, regardless of whether they had registered it. A registered trademark lasts for 10 years from the date of registration.

Trade Secrets

The United States government protects trade secrets as one of several unregistered forms of intellectual property. Trade secrets are any methods, processes or other data that is not generally known outside of the company. Businesses may gain a competitive edge over their competitors by using this information. Although three requirements vary from state to state, to be considered a trade secret, several criteria must usually be met.

Firstly, the information must not be publicly known and the company must take reasonable measures to conceal this information. Secondly, the information must have some sort of economic value or benefit.

Trade secret protection involves no registration costs and is not limited in time. Therefore, in contrast to patents, protection of trade secrets may continue indefinitely as long as the information remains secret. A well-known example of a trade secret is the secret formula to Coca-Cola, which is locked in a vault that has not been patented or released to the public.

Seeking Justice

Have you been faced with a copyright infringement case and require the assistance of an experienced attorney? Are you interested in learning more about your intellectual property lights? Find an expert intellectual property attorney with Attorney at Law.
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