What is Intellectual Property Law?
Intellectual property rights are the property rights of the owners of inventions, creations, designs and other works. These are intangible rights, which you normally can’t see, unlike real property and goods. Intellectual property laws are the laws meant to protect and enforce those rights, which can include copyright, trademarks, and patents.These types of rights have become more critical as technology has moved beyond hardware into new frontiers, such as software, biotechnology, and the internet, with its ability to transmit content and services globally.
In the United States, the Constitution gives Congress the authority to grant rights to authors and inventors and to regulate trademarks. The intellectual property laws passed by Congress are enforced by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the U.S. Copyright Office. The USPTO is also tasked with registration and enforcement of patents and trademarks, while the Copyright Office is where copyrights are required to be registered.
What is a patent?
A patent is an exclusive property right related to an invention, which is defined by the World Intellectual Property Office as a “product or process that provides in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.” In the United States, patents are granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). To get a patent, the patent application has to provide the invention’s technical information to the public. Examples of patents include machines, manufactured goods, certain manufacturing processes, and chemical compositions.
What protections does a patent offer?
Basically, the owner of the patent has the exclusive power to prevent others from economically benefiting from their invention. Others can not make, use, distribute, or sell the invention without the permission of the owner of the patent. If the inventor, after a lot of hard work, came up with a new good or process, that person should enjoy the financial rewards of that work. Someone can not simply copy another’s work and make money from it without permission. A properly filed patent will ensure that the creator has the legal standing to enforce his or her rights against this kind of infringement.
Is a patent valid outside the United States?
Patents are generally only valid in the country where they are registered; though, there are treaties that protect intellectual property rights.
How long does a patent last?
This depends on what type of patent it is:
- Design Patents – 15 years from issuance for applications filed on or after May 13, 2015 (14 years from issuance if filed before May 13, 2015).
- Utility Patents and Plant Patents – 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier, related application was filed, per the USPTO.
What is a trademark?
The USTPO defines trademark as “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” Trademarks are protected by intellectual property rights. Everyday examples of trademarks include the Nike “swoosh” or the Uber logo.
How can I protect my trademark?
In the United States, to protect a trademark, it should be registered through the USPTO. Internationally, it can be filed with each individual country’s trademark office, or through the World Intellectual Property Office’s Madrid System.
What rights does trademark registration provide?
In principle, a registration will give the owner of the registered trademark the exclusive right to the use of the trademark. Which means it can be exclusively used by the registered owner, or it can be licensed to a third party for a period of years in return for a fee. Example: the use of the French Lacoste “alligator” brand was licensed in the United States to Izod for a number of years. Registration gives the owner, clear standing, in terms of commercial rights and for litigation.
How long does a trademark last?
The term of trademark registration can vary, but it’s usually ten years. Provided you pay the fees promptly, it can be renewed indefinitely.
What kinds of trademark can be registered?
A trademark can be one word or a mix of letters words and numbers. Drawings, symbols, the shape or packaging of goods (i.e. the Coca Cola bottle) and other signs, such as sounds or smells (Chanel perfume), and even shades of colors (Ferrari Red)
What is copyright?
The copyright is grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright law covers both published and unpublished works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture, and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings.
What does copyright protection cover?
- literary works, including novels, non-fiction books, poems, stage productions, newspaper, magazine, and web articles
- computer software, mobile applications, and databases
- films, musical works (from songs to symphonies), and choreography
- art, including paintings, sculpture, photographs, and drawings
- maps and ads
Copyright vs. patent or a trademark?
Copyright protects the authorship of certain works, while patents cover inventions or discoveries. A trademark protects “words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.” Apple, for example, owns the patents to the iphone; the trademarks “Apple” and the Apple logo that appear on the phone; and the copyright to the IOS software that runs the phone.
When does copyright protection start?
Copyright protection starts at the moment the work is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Think of the moment scenes for a movie are shot and recorded. Those images are now afforded copyright protection. No one else can reuse those shots without permission.
What rights does the copyright owner have?
There are two types of rights under copyright:
- Economic Rights – the owner/author/creator’s right to receive financial remuneration by others’ using his/her work. Examples provided by the World International Property Organization include:
- its reproduction in various forms, such as printed publication or sound recording
- its public performance, such as in a play or musical work
- its recording, for example, in the form of compact discs or DVDs
- its broadcasting, by radio, cable or satellite
- its translation into other languages
- its adaptation, such as a novel into a film screenplay
- Moral Rights – These protect the non-economic interests. Again, from WIPO:
Examples of widely recognized moral rights include the right to claim authorship of a work and the right to oppose changes to a work that could harm the creator’s reputation.
If you shop around you can find patent application quotes ranging from a couple hundred bucks to tens of thousands of dollars. The better question to ask is “what will it cost to find someone I can trust to draft my patent application?” This is a deeply personal decision dictated by your relationship with your attorney, your individual needs, the scope of your project, and your budget. The following questions and answers may help you in this determination and we also encourage you to review our fee schedule.
Our attorneys each come from previous careers in engineering and science and can provide impressive resumes to show their specialties integrating complex concepts of business, law, finance, science, and engineering. When choosing us you benefit from our highly successful track record in protecting ideas as we walk you through the process. We also encourage you to read the many glowing reviews posted about us online.
Our firm maintains several policies to ensure quality work while reducing overhead. First, we keep a lean staff where everyone has a purpose. Second, we allow you to plan and budget your expenses by charging flat rate fees and accepting payments by installment. Third, we strive for a 1-2 week turnaround time to protect your idea as soon as possible.
Unless you meet the criteria to accelerate your application review with the USPTO it will take 1-3 years to obtain your patent. However, we can acquire a “patent pending” status
within 1-2 weeks, which allows you to put potential competitors on notice that you have taken steps to protect yourself. Because granted patents can be enforced retroactively to their patent pending date this is a powerful deterrent and a first step towards protecting your idea.
The protection you need will depend largely on what you are trying to accomplish. Although there is some overlap please refer to the following guideline:
- Patents—Protect new ideas and inventions;
- Trademarks—Protect corporate and product branding;
- Copyrights—Protect original works of authorship and art.
The type of patent application that you file will be determined by your specific needs. There is a lot of nuance to consider but here are some general guidelines:
- Utility Patents—Protect a process, function, or use;
- Design Patents—Protect the external appearance of an invention.
There are also several application approaches to obtaining a utility patent:
- Non-provisional—Permanently secures your “patent pending” status until the application is either granted or abandoned;
- Provisional—Temporarily secures your “patent pending” status for 12 months, after which you could lose the idea forever;
- Conversion—Converts a provisional application into a non-provisional application.