The Beginner’s Guide to Intellectual Property Law

By StepUpwards Team, 13th June 2022

Introduction

The evolution of human beings has been the story of the evolution of knowledge. From early human civilizations to modern civilization, man has utilized knowledge to come out with innovations that have brought dynamic changes to society. Intellectual property rights are the result of the application of the mind in the execution of creative and innovative thoughts. 

The tentacles of intellectual property law reach into every element of human existence, including the marks on a can of COCA-COLA, rights in the books, music, photographs, theatre, films, and electronic information sources we all use, and even the shape of one's pen, architecture, and the technology behind the newest endeavor at space exploration: from science to art. Intellectual property rights are statutory rights. Once granted, it allows the creators of the intellectual property to exclude others from exploiting the same commercially for a given period. It is impossible to safeguard a concept or an idea. Only the tangible representation of that thought or concept can be protected. 

There are four main categories of intellectual property that are frequently used to protect the intangible assets-

  1. Patents

  2. Copyright

  3. Trademarks

  4. Trade Secrets

Four main categories of intellectual property

Patents

A type of limited duration protection that can be used to protect inventions (or discoveries) that are new and useful, such as a new process, the machine, or manufactured article. 

When someone has a patent, it is illegal for others to sell, manufacture, or use the product.

Copyright

Copyright only protects tangible forms of intellectual properties, such as art, music, software codes, or architectural designs. Only the owner of the copyright has the right to sell, publish or reproduce the work. 

Copyright protections are built-in; once you've created something, it's yours. If your copyright laws are broken and you want to file a lawsuit, you'll need to register your copyright.

Trademarks

A distinctive sign that allows customers to identify the goods and services of a particular company. For example - the logo of the company, taglines, symbol, sound, color scheme, or even the smell of their products. Trademarks can protect a set or class of products or services instead of just one.

Patents and copyrights can expire, however, trademark rights are obtained from trademark usage and hence can be held indefinitely. A trademark registration, like copyright registration, is voluntary, although it might bring additional benefits.

Trade Secrets

It refers to the secrets of a business, for example - strategies, proprietary systems, formula, or other confidential information, which are meant for unauthorized commercial use by others. 

Others cannot replicate or steal an idea if a person or company has trade secret protection. Businesses must actively conduct in a manner that reveals their intent to safeguard information to establish it as a "trade secret" and to get the legal protections associated with trade secrets.

Trade secrets are protected even if they are not officially registered; nonetheless, a trade secret owner whose rights have been violated – for example, if someone steals their trade secret – can petition a court to take action against that person and prohibit them from exploiting the trade secret.

Wrapping Up

Although intellectual property rights appear to give a minimal level of protection, when used effectively, they may maximize the utility and value of an invention and enable the development, protection, and monetization of world-changing technologies.

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