When people talk about intellectual property rights or IP rights, they refer to a legal matter that involves the creations of the mind, such as literary and artistic works, inventions, names, images, symbols, and designs used in trade and commerce. Examples include novels, songs, illustrations, brand logos, and other marks of identification.
These intellectual property laws are there to promote the spirit of creation and innovation, encouraging new technologies and inventions as well as artistic expressions while aiding economic advancement by ensuring that creators’ efforts receive intellectual property protection for a certain time span. When you know that your labors are covered by IP protection, you are likely to continue creating, which leads to more jobs, new products, improved processes, and a generally better world.
For instance, if you’re an illustrator who makes a living by selling and reprinting your artwork, you’ll find it upsetting to discover that your works have been taken without permission and reproduced on T-shirts or posters sold online without crediting you. Such theft hits you both emotionally and financially. In this case, you can sue. Copyright law gives you certain exclusive rights to sell and reproduce your work as well as produce derivative works of your creation. When your rights are infringed, you can sue whoever is infringing on those legal rights. If you’re successful in your lawsuit, you may receive money damages, which are defined by laws that protect your intellectual property.
Three Major Players in Intellectual Property Law
The three main mechanisms that protect intellectual property in the US are copyrights, patents, and trademarks. People make the mistake of using these three terms interchangeably, but they are distinct from each other, protecting different types of intellectual property. Here’s an overview.
The expressive arts are the works that can be protected by copyright. A copyright owner has the legal right to produce the work involved, display it publicly or perform it, and create works derived from it. Copyright protection ensures that the copyright holder has the exclusive right to financially benefit from the work, prohibiting others from earning off it without his or her consent. Without permission, those who make money off copyrighted works may be charged with copyright infringement. To clarify, copyright does not protect the idea itself, only the ways in which it is expressed.
Patent law provides that inventions are protected from being made, used, sold, offered for sale, or imported for a given period of time. There are three types of US patent protection.
- Utility Patents – A utility patent protects inventions with a specific function, such as products, machines, processes, and other forms of technology.
- Design Patents – A design patent protects the unique appearance of a manufactured object, like the original shape of a product or its surface ornamentation. It is different from copyright.
- Plant Patents – A plant patent protects a plant variety that was asexually reproduced. Examples of plant varieties that are protected by intellectual property law include hybrids, cultigens, and mutant species.
For their creation to receive patent protection, inventors should timely file a patent application with US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and have the patent successfully granted. It’s also important to note that utility patents are subject to periodic maintenance fees.
Obtaining US patent rights can be a complex process that is time-consuming. If you want to be a patent owner and get legal protection for your creation, patent lawyers can help you ensure that you get all the necessary paperwork properly done and filed in a timely fashion.
Trademark law concerns protection for names and other identifying marks of products or companies, including logos and slogans. In the United States, businesses don’t need to file paperwork for their identifying mark to be trademarked. They may use the TM symbol without filling out forms or officially applying for trademark protection. A common law mark is automatically assumed once they start using a mark with which to identify themselves. There are, however, important benefits in actually registering marks.
For Protecting Intellectual Property, Get Help from IP Lawyers!
Innovation and creativity should be rewarded and protected. If you want to know how to protect your intellectual property, call us at War IP Law to consult with one of our experienced intellectual property attorneys.