Intellectual Property Primer
Anthony R. Pisarra, Esq.
Intellectual property represents the rights of owners and authors in original works and inventions. Intellectual property is secured through four separate bodies of law: patent law, copyright law, trademark law and trade secret law.
Rev: May 2004
Patent Law protects new, useful, and nonobvious inventions.
Copyright Law protects the expressions contained in original works of authorship.
Trademark Law protects words and symbols that are used in connection with products and services.
Trade Secret Law protects any formula, pattern, practice, device or compilation of information used in business that provides an advantage over competitors who do not know it.
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office. The term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States. US patent grants are effective only within the US, US territories, and US possessions.
The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" the invention in the United States or "importing" the invention into the United States.
Copyright is a form of intellectual property securing to authors the rights in their original works of authorship.
Under U.S. copyright law, protected works may include literary, dramatic, artistic and musical works as well as additional forms of intellectual expression.
The interests secured to authors in these works generally include the exclusive rights to:
- Reproduce copies of the work;
- Prepare derivative works based on their original expression;
- Distribute copies of the work by transfer, lease or loan; and
- Display or perform the work publicly;
In addition, authors of certain visual works may enjoy "moral rights" protecting the unauthorized modification to the work that will tend to harm the author's "honor or reputation".
The term "trademark" includes any word, name, symbol, or device used by a person (or which a person has a bona fide intention to use) in commerce to identify and distinguish his or her goods from those manufactured or sold by others.
Trademarks are used to identify goods, that is, physical commodities, which may be natural or manufactured or produced, and which are sold or otherwise transported or distributed.
Service marks are the same as trademarks except that they are used to identify services, that is, intangible activities, which are performed by one person for the benefit of a person or persons other than himself, either for pay or otherwise.
Both trademarks and service marks are routinely referred to as "trademarks".
Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark. Trademarks which are used in interstate or foreign commerce may be registered with the Patent and Trademark Office.
Trade secret law protects any formula, pattern, practice, device or compilation of information used in business that provides an advantage over competitors who do not know it.
© 2005 A.R. Pisarra