“Intellectual property” is a term with which many people are familiar, but are often unaware of the full meaning. In short, an intellectual property is a “creation of the mind” over which an individual or corporation holds a legal monopoly. “Intellectual property” is also used to refer to the field of law that handles the legal implications and protections of these monopolies. The main goal of these laws is to uphold the exclusive rights the creator of an intellectual property holds over their works, which are much more far reaching than many people realize.
Copyrights, trademarks, patents, trade secrets, music, art, and literature are all examples of types of intellectual properties. In order to avoid violating applicable laws, it’s important to understand what the more obscure of some of these terms mean.
Copyright is a group of rights reserved for the creator of an original work. It includes the ability to legally copy, change, and distribute the work. After a set amount of time, a work protected by copyright enters the “public domain,” freeing it from the restrictions of its former legal status.
A trademark is an image, symbol, phrase, or other distinctive mark used to represent a person, group, or brand. Trademarks exist as both registered and unregistered legal entities, though enforcement of infringement laws differ depending on the status of the mark in question. “Service mark” is a term used to distinguish a trademark that relates to services instead of products. Infringement cases are subject to limit by the “fair use” defense, which allow the use of others’ trademarks if they are being used to accurately describe a product or to identify the mark’s owner.
Patents are designed to protect an inventor’s rights to their work for a certain amount of time in exchange for their disclosure of that invention to the public. The terms of the patent give the inventor the right to keep other people or individuals from profiting off of their work for the length of the patent (generally 20 years).
Trade secrets are formulas, processes, instruments, or other information that give one business an advantage over their competition. These secrets can be protected through non-compete and non-disclosure contracts with employees, but once they are discovered, other parties are not prevented from using the information.
If you are facing charges for violating intellectual property laws, you may want to seek the advice of an experienced legal counselor. The details of such cases can be very complicated, and you deserve to have your rights fully protected.