Intellectual Property Law, also called IP law, deals with the rules that secure and enforce legal rights to intangible assets such as inventions, designs, and artistic works. These laws are in place to give an incentive to people so they can develop their work without the fear of misappropriation by others. This incentive allows them to develop creative works for the betterment of the Society.
Some of the most common people who fall under the category who benefit from intellectual property law include inventors, designers, and writers. Two different areas fall under the Intellectual Property Laws and include Patents and Trademarks.
Section 8 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives express authority to Congress to grant exclusive rights to authors and inventors to their creations. Congress is also given the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce under Section 8 so that it can provide further support for its rights to legislate in this area. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as well as the U.S. Copyright Office are the government agencies that administer Intellectual property laws passed by Congress.
Trademarks are often referred to as a brand or brand name used by businesses as identification to distinguish their products or services. They help protect any names, slogans, or symbols that are used to identify goods and services. Trademarks help avoid confusion and help customers distinguish one brand from the other. They also help deter misleading advertising. Generic and purely descriptive marks do not qualify as Trademarks, so the sign has to be distinctive. Owners can also register their marks for additional protection and these rights can potentially last forever.
Patents are rights granted by the government to inventors so they can exclude others from using, selling, or offering for sale any patented invention in the marketplace. Patents provide a time-limited, legally protected, and exclusive right to make, use, or sell an invention. The validity of patent rights is up to 20 years. Technological improvements, new machines, and manufactured good, all qualify as items that can be patented.
Copyrights are exclusive legal rights given to an originator to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same. Copyright laws apply to writings, music, motion pictures, architecture, or any other original or artistic expressions. Copyrights are considered territorial rights, which means they do not extend beyond the territory of a specific jurisdiction. Anything which is unpublished or not captured in a fixed medium is not protected under Copyright laws. Most copyrights are valid for the creator’s lifetime, plus 70 more years.
Infringement refers to the violation of the terms of an agreement, or the unauthorized use of intellectual property. Owners can take several steps to protect their work against infringement through owner’s rights. They can also provide notice to help deter infringement by making the owner’s rights known to the world. Protection against infringement also triggers additional legal benefits and allows the owner to prosecute an infringement in court if needed.
The Patent and Trademark Office can be informed by inventors of their rights by marking their product with the patent number assigned to it. Inventors can also use the label “patent pending” to discourage others from copying their design while they are waiting for the patent to be awarded. Symbols like (™, ©, etc.) can used on the product or material to inform others of trademarks and copyrights.
If you are thinking of obtaining rights to something unique which you have invented or written, get in touch with an intellectual property attorney who knows how to protect your interests. Alternately, if you have been accused of infringement or if someone has violated your intellectual rights, you can seek legal counsel to help fight back. Contact an IP attorney as soon as possible.
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