What is Intellectual Property?
In the world of business law, intellectual property and all the term entails, is often confusing and complicated. What creative endeavors are actually considered intellectual property and what is protected by law, and to which degree, remains an enigma for most organizations. Though intellectual property is everywhere throughout our modern day society, with music, books, inventions, and even marketing terms, understanding the realm of copyrights and trademarks is rarely as straight-forward as expected.
Intellectual property is often understood to be the creations of the mind that are protected by legal right to ownership. That ownership allows the individual, partnership or organization the full right to financially gain from the use or sale of their intellectual creation. The term however is often used to refer to all rights conferred within a variety of fields of law. These fields include:
- Patent law
- Copyright law
- Trade secret law
- Right of publicity
- Trademark and unfair competition law
Though within certain states, the details of these laws may seem similar they do serve different purposes.
Patent laws generally cover inventions. A patent is the granting of a property right to its inventor. It is important to note that ideas cannot be patented; therefore your idea must have evolved into an existing invention to be considered for patent protection. The US Patent and Trademark is the federal entity that issues patents and only through their application process does a patent exist.
Copyright laws protect those creators of “original works of authorship”. Literary, musical, artistic and other intellectual works, both published and unpublished are protected under this set of business laws. A copyright give the owner exclusive rights to reproduce the work itself or a derived version of the same work and allows for the public performance of protected work. It also protects against the use by other parties for their own financial gain. Like patents, copyright laws do not extend to ideas; nor do they protect processes, procedures or discoveries.
Trade secrets are those elements of business information that are considered valuable to that organization and not generally known to the industry or the public. Trade secrets are protected against exploitation and misappropriation by any party.
Trademark rights exist to protect a business’ sole use of a phrase, symbol, name or device that is meant to set your organization apart from others. It prevents others from impeding on your business through the use of a copycat or confusingly similar mark, symbol or phrase. Logos are just one aspect of business that are protected by trademark laws.
The inherent right that we all have, as human beings, to protect or control the commercial use of our identity is referred to as “right of publicity”. Right of publicity laws are unique in that they do not protect the persona or identity of a corporation, partnership or similar entities or institutions. They only protect the rights of individuals that are deemed to be human beings.
Because intellectual property laws are intricate in detail and their protections can so very easily be confused between the areas of law, it is important to utilize a business lawyer that understands the nuances of these areas. As a Top-Rated local® business lawyer in Needham, Alan Segal can help you and your organization navigate through the complications in order to protect what is rightfully yours.