Intellectual Property Laws

The World Intellectual Property Organization was formed by the United Nations in 1967 to "reward creativity, stimulate innovation and contribute to economic development while safeguarding the public interest." The organization promotes the development of intellectual property laws domestically and abroad, but in addition, individuals and businesses face following the statutes of this organization in all their dealings, especially those involving the global capabilities of the internet. Domestically, the United States has a set of very strict intellectual property laws derived in nature from the United States Constitution and further amended throughout the years until they reached their current state.

Intellectual property laws in the United States define intellectual property ownership as collection of exclusive rights that are covered by law to protect holder's creative and commercial products, works, and services and the reproducing of these right as well. An interrelated category of industrial properties also exists, which offers exclusive rights to owners of intellectual property intended for commercial or industrial implementation. The exclusive rights of intellectual property, including the ability to license, loan, or replicate this property and some derivations of it, comprise a huge value of intangible assets for their owners. In fact, industry estimates concerning the true value of intellectual property regard the bulk of the valuation amount of public companies, an estimated 66 percent, is derived from intellectual property's intangible asset value.

There are a number of forms of intellectual properties that an owner can seek to secure, which include:

  • Trademarks: Also known as a logo, this type of property identifies a particular product or service and makes it distinctive to a company or individual.
  • Copyrights: These can be obtained for any creative work, be it a book, manuscript, song, sculpture or image. Usage of copyrighted works, except for small allowances, as dictated by "fair use" provisions, is restricted to the owner or owners.
  • Patents: These were created to protect the rights of inventors. Ideas and concepts can be patented, if they are considered "distinctive" by the United States Office of Patents and Trademarks.
  • Industrial Design Rights: These protect the aesthetic design of objects- those features that make a product distinctive, but are not completely utilitarian.
  • Trade Secrets: These protect a company's assets that include methodologies and formulas that they utilize when operating their business or organization. In the business arena, trade secrets are a crucial element in retaining a competitive edge against others in a given industry.
  • Trade Names: Though these are often registered as trademarks, they can be individually registered for extra protection.
  • Geographical Indications: These are special label that guarantee that a product comes from a specific region. Owners must apply for the right to display this information on their product.

As previously mentioned, "fair usage" provisions allow small portions of certain intellectual property to be shared with the public in very specific situations. Advertising and critical or scholarly reviews are two such situations. Additionally, companies can use the lucrative leverage exclusive rights offer to license usage of copyrighted intellectual property to other entities for a fee.

The process of obtaining copyright protection in the United States involves filing a claim with the United States Office of Patents and Trademarks, which by law, requires the use of a patent lawyer to present and properly document all filings. Even in these instances, a request for copyrights is subject to rejection on a number of grounds. The laws pertaining to the usage of intellectual property are complex and best deciphered by a specialized lawyer. These experts can also help devise ways to best protect your work, whether in mitigating future violations or defending current violations of intellectual property rights.

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