There are several types of intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. There are different levels of protection for each type.
Intellectual property protection
Patents protect inventions and are granted to inventors for a specific period of time. The inventor obtains a patent, discloses their invention to the public, and in exchange has the exclusive right to use and sell the invention for a limited period. (Our firm does not typically work in patent law.)
Copyrights protect original works. These include literary, musical and artistic works. Technically, a creator has copyright in their work the moment they create it, but to fully exercise their rights, they must register their copyright.
Trademarks protect words, names, symbols and other unique marks used to identify a product or business. They provide the user with exclusive rights to use the trademark in commerce. While businesses can develop their trademark rights by using them in commerce, registering a trademark at the state and federal levels greatly increases their ability to exercise their rights.
Trade secrets protect valuable business information that could provide a competitive advantage. These may include formulas, customer lists or manufacturing processes. Unlike the other forms of intellectual property we have mentioned, trade secrets are not protected by federal law. The owner must protect them through contracts with employees and business partners.
Conflicts over intellectual property can arise in several situations. When someone uses intellectual property without the creator’s permission, that is infringement. It may apply to copyrights, patents and trademarks.
There may also be disputes over who owns the intellectual property, especially in situations where there is joint ownership and a claim to equal rights to the work. Finally, there can be disputes over licensing and royalty payments, as well as claims that the work has been counterfeited.
These are only some examples of disputes that can arise over the use of intellectual property. There is support available for intellectual property owners who need help.