When people talk about intellectual property rights or IP rights, they refer to a legal concept that involves the creations of the mind, such as literary and artistic works, inventions, brand names, images, symbols, and designs used in trade and commerce.
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 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 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 the same 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 and protect 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 reproduce the protected work, display or publicly 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 consent. Those who make money off copyrighted works without consent may be liable for copyright infringement. To clarify, copyright does not protect the idea itself, only the ways in which it is expressed.
Patent law provides protection for new and useful inventions. It ensures that they are protected from being made, used, sold, offered for sale, or imported for a period of time. There are three types of U.S. patents:
- 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 product, like the original shape 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.
To receive patent protection, inventors should timely file a patent application with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and have the patent successfully granted after examination. It’s also important to note that utility patents are subject to periodic maintenance fees.
Obtaining a patent can be a complex and time-consuming process. If you want to be a patent owner and get legal protection for your invention, patent lawyers can ensure that you get all the necessary paperwork properly completed and filed.
Trademark law protects 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 applying for trademark registration. A common law mark is automatically assumed once they start using a mark with which to identify themselves. There are, however, important benefits to 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.