Intellectual Property Law: Patents, Trademarks and Copyright

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What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property is the area of law that deals with protecting the rights of those who create original works. It covers everything from original plays and novels to inventions and company identification marks. The purpose of intellectual property laws are to encourage new technologies, artistic expressions and inventions while promoting economic growth. When individuals know that their creative work will be protected and that they can benefit from their labor, they are more likely to continue to produce things that create jobs, develop new technology, make processes more efficient, and create beauty in the world around us.

There are three main mechanisms for protecting intellectual property in the United States: copyrights, patents and trademarks.

Copyrights

Copyrights protect the expressive arts. They give owners exclusive rights to reproduce their work, publicly display or perform their work, and create derivative works. Additionally, owners are given economic rights to financially benefit from their work and prohibit others from doing so without their permission. It is important to realize that copyrights do not protect ideas, only how they're expressed.

Patents

Patents protect an invention from being made, sold or used by others for a certain period of time. There are three different types of patents in the United States:

  • Utility Patents - these patents protect inventions that have a specific function, including things like chemicals, machines, and technology.
  • Design Patents - these patents protect the unique way a manufactured object appears.
  • Plant Patents - these patents protect plant varieties that are asexually reproduced, including hybrids.

Inventors may not assume that their creation is patented unless they apply and are approved for a patent by the US Patent and Trademark Office. This process can be complex and time consuming. It is a good idea to hire an intellectual property attorney to make sure you file the appropriate paperwork and get the patent you need to protect your invention and make it profitable.

Trademarks

Trademarks protect the names and identifying marks of products and companies. The purpose of trademarks is to make it easy for consumers to distinguish competitors from each other. Trademarks are automatically assumed once a business begins using a certain mark to identify its company, and may use the symbol TM without filing their symbol or name with the government.

There are strict laws in place to protect intellectual property rights. When intellectual property rights are violated, it is important to hire an intellectual property lawyer. An experienced attorney can help you sue for damages that include lost royalties. If your case is successful, the person who violated your intellectual property rights may be required to pay for all of your legal fees in addition to compensating you for using your work without your permission.

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