Intellectual property law deals with the legal rights of people who make original creative works and inventions. Intellectual property protection is meant to protect the rights of people who make creations of the mind by granting them the rights to those works for specified periods of time.
Intellectual property law can protect scientific works and creative works. However, the level of protection you can claim depends on the type of creation you are protecting. The four primary areas of intellectual property law include copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets.
Copyright law allows an author or artist to protect their “original works of authorship.” Original works of authorship may include:
- Computer codes
- Choreographic works
- Architectural works
- Audiovisual works
- Scripts for films
A copyright is created once the work is developed, meaning you are not required to register your original work of authorship. However, you should register your copyright because it creates a public record of your copyright claim. In addition, copyright registration is required before you can file an infringement lawsuit.
The length of your copyright protection depends on the work created and who created it. For individuals, copyright protection lasts for 70 years after the author’s death. If more than one person contributed to the creative work, the copyright would last 70 years after the last contributor’s death. For creative works created for hire or works where the original creator is unknown (e.g., anonymous and pseudonymous works), the copyright protection lasts for 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.
A trademark is something that distinguishes your brand or product from others. Trademarks can be a design, symbols, lettering, or words representing your brand or product. You are not required to register your trademark to have a viable trademark claim, but registering trademarks creates a presumption of ownership.
A trademark can last for as long as it is used and maintained. If you continue to use the protected trademark, it will continue to be protected. However, if you register a trademark, it needs to be kept alive and renewed every ten years with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
A patent protects inventors from having their inventions made and sold by others. To qualify for a patent, an invention must be novel, non-obvious, and functional. A patent usually lasts for 20 years from the earliest date of filing. After the expiration of the patent, it may be freely used in any manner by anyone.
Unlike the other areas of intellectual property, a trade secret is not publicly known and will not be registered. A trade secret is something confidential that gives your company a competitive edge. For example, Coca-Cola’s recipe is one of the best examples of a trade secret because it is still unknown to the public after over 100 years of use. If your company takes reasonable steps to keep something from being known publicly, you can sue someone for using and profiting from your trade secret.
Contact an Intellectual Property Attorney
Registering and understanding your intellectual property protections are essential in protecting your company’s profits and originality. Discussing your intellectual property rights with an experienced intellectual property attorney can save your company from violating someone else’s intellectual property rights and help you protect yours. Contact us today to discuss your intellectual property needs. Simply call (888) 666-0062 or click here to schedule an Initial Discovery Session online.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.