Friday, December 05, 2008

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property, as defined by Wikipedia, is "a legal field that refers to creations of the mind such as musical, literary, and artistic works; inventions; and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce, including copyrights, trademarks, patents, and related rights." Often times our clients who have created an original product or idea become confused when they want to protect their creation over whether they need to apply for a copyright, trademark, or patent. Below are explanations on the three types of protection and what is protected by each.

Copyright is for original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. Copyrights are registered with the United States Copyright Office and have an expiration date. The length of the copyright depends on when the work was first created.

Trademark covers words, names, symbols, and devices used to identify goods or services in commerce. Federal regulations are available through the United States Patent and Trademark Office and trademarks cans be renewed indefinitely.

Patents fall into three main categories: utility, plant, and design. Utility patents are good for twenty years and are applied to new or newly improved processes, machines, manufacturing procedures, or the composition of matter. Plant patents last for twenty years as well and are applied to plants that have been newly produced asexually, not from seed. Design patents last for fourteen years and apply to new, original, and ornamental designs for articles. For example, a better functioning baby bottle would be a utility patent while a better looking bottle would be a design patent. For more information on patents, go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

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