What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property laws cover trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. These products of the mind, like ideas, inventions, and art, have value. Legal instruments protect them.
Not all ideas are considered intellectual property under the law. Commercial viability is essential for establishing and protecting intellectual property. Inventors and creatives should register their ideas.
Trademarks and Copyrights
A trademark is a distinctive symbol, word or phrase to identify a specific company or individual. Examples of recognizable trademarks include the “Nike swoosh” and well-known brand names like “Band-Aid.”
To protect a trademark, it must be registered with agencies like the U.S. Patent and Trade Office. Then, a company or individual can legally use symbols like a circled “R” or the abbreviation “Reg. TM”. Registered trademarks can be defended through legal action.
Copyright protects the exclusive rights of creators for their original work and allows them to control how it’s used and who benefits financially.
Theft of Trade Secrets
A trade secret is confidential information used in business to create or market a product. It is not publicly available and is considered intellectual property.
When a trade secret is violated, it is said to be “misappropriated” or stolen.
Generally, a business must prove three things when alleging theft of trade secret:
- It did own the trade secret.
- The other party wrongfully took the trade secret.
- The party who stole the trade secret used it to its advantage.
Trade secrets are generally considered rights created by common law, so they are not protected by the same intellectual property laws that govern things like patents and trademarks.
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