INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS
Intellectual property law is the area of law that deals with legal rights to creative works and inventions. It controls who gets to use creations including new products, artistic works and designs. The purpose of intellectual property law is to allow the people who create and invent things to profit from their work.
Overview of Intellectual Property Laws
A wide body of federal and state laws protects creative property such as writing, music, drawings, paintings, photography, and films. Collectively, this body of law is called “intellectual property” law, which includes copyright, trademark, and patent laws, each applicable in various situations and each with its own set of technical rules. When obtaining permission to use creative works, you’re concerned primarily with copyright law. However, trademarks, trade secrets, and publicity and privacy rights sometimes come into play when permission to use certain types of works is sought. Below is a summary of the various types of intellectual property laws that are relevant to the permissions process.
• Copyright. Federal copyright law protects original creative works such as paintings, writing, architecture, movies, software, photos, dance, and music. A work must meet certain minimum requirements to qualify for copyright protection. The length of protection also varies depending on when the work was created or first published.
• Trademark. Brand names such as Nike and Apple, as well as logos, slogans, and other devices that identify and distinguish products and services, are protected under federal and state trademark laws. Unlike copyrighted works, trademarks receive different degrees of protection depending on numerous variables, including the consumer awareness of the trademark, the type of service and product it identifies, and the geographic area in which the trademark is used.
• Trade Secrets. State and federal trade secret laws protect sensitive business information. An example of a trade secret would be a confidential marketing plan for the introduction of a new software product or the secret recipe for a brand of salsa. The extent of trade secret protection depends on whether the information gives the business an advantage over competitors, is kept a secret, and is not known by competitors.
• Patent. A patent grants the patent holder the exclusive right to exclude others from making, using, importing, and selling the patented innovation for a limited period of time. The U.S. Patent Act, 35 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq., was enacted by Congress under its Constitutional grant of authority to secure for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their discoveries. See Article I, Section 8, Clause 8. Granting exclusive rights to the inventor is intended to encourage the investment of time and resources into the development of new and useful discoveries. In exchange for this limited monopoly, immediate disclosure of the patented information to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is required. Once the term of protection has ended, the patented innovation enters the public domain.