Intellectual Property Attorneys
Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the intellect the creator can use for trade or profit. Writers, artists, and engineers often rely on these creations to earn a living. In order to promote both social and technological progress in society, these innovations are protected by laws broadly defined as intellectual property rights.
In 2013, the U.S. Patent & Trademark office revealed the worth of the Intellectual Property to the U.S. economy is more than $5 trillion and creates employment opportunities for some 18 million people.
Infringement is the common term for stolen, violated or reproduced intellectual property without the creator’s consent. As the original creator, if your work has been infringed upon, you have the legal right to seek compensation for losses. But only if the IP has been registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark or Copyright offices.
Types of Intellectual Property
In all forms of IP, legal protection is only granted for creations that are original, useful and new expressions of an idea. Intellectual property law does not apply to the idea itself, rather the expression of it. The different types of intellectual property fall into six categories:
- Copyrights: protect intangible creations; these include music, novels, paintings, photographs, and software. Although copyright is automatically granted the date the piece is created, you’ll need to register with the Copyright office in order to pursue legal action should your work be stolen. Once registered, copyright is granted for the duration of the author’s life plus 70 years after.
- Patents: protect inventions of tangible things. Patent rights last for 20 years.
- Industrial Design: protects the visual design of objects, including the shape, color, configuration, pattern or any combination of these. These designs can be 2 or 3 dimensional commodities or handicrafts.
- Plant Varieties: gives plant breeders the right to commercially use a new variety of plant or seed.
- Trademark: the sign, mark, design or expression used by a business or service that distinguishes it from other business or services. A trademark can be infringed when goods are sold with a counterfeit or close copy of the trademark symbol.
- Trade Dress: the packaging or visual appearance of a product, service or physical property.
- Trade Secret: can refer to a formula, design, instrument, practice or process that in not common knowledge, which gives a business advantage over its competition.
Registering patents, plant varieties, trademarks and the like can be a long and quite complicated process. The best way to protect the fruits of your mental labor is to seek the help of an attorney well-versed in the nuances of Intellectual Property law.
Copyright infringement is probably the most familiar type of intellectual property violation. This is due to the large scale reproduction and distribution of films and music known as piracy. In order to be found in violation of copyright law, a person must be acting for the purpose of personal financial gain.
The double-edged sword of the World Wide Web provides both a venue to share original work and to potentially have that work stolen and distributed almost endlessly. In response to this, the U.S. government passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to help control access to copyrighted works way back in 1998.
Personal monetary gain isn’t the sole motivator for film and music piracy. In 2011, the Social Science Research Council found that, “High prices for media goods, low incomes, and cheap digital technologies are the main ingredients of global media piracy.” Banning content in certain countries can also lead to wide-scale copyright infringement.
Copyright infringement has both civil and criminal charges depending on the scope of the violation. Most disputes can be resolved by your lawyer through direct negotiation. Typically, the person found in violation receives a Cease and Desist letter. The recipient may have the opportunity to enter licensing negotiations with the copyright holder. Or they can be summoned to court if they do not meet the deadlines provided in the letter.
These cases can have substantial cost in both time and money, but the cost to formally register is relatively cheap. The application fee is $35 dollars. When it comes to protecting your creations from theft – if you write it, paint it, or play it- register it.
The patent application process is so complex that even the U.S. Patent & Trademark office strongly recommends you hire a lawyer to navigate the procedure. Trade design, dress and secrets, trademark and service marks are all registered at this office. Plant variation patents are handled here as well.
Because patents granted to an inventor based on the date of creation, they require diligent record keeping. Each document regarding the invention must be signed and dated for accuracy. The high cost of research and development and the opportunity to recoup those costs is what drives patent protection under law.
If a patent or trademark is infringed, the creator can seek both and injunction to stop the infringement and damages for losses.
It is important to note that once registered, the U.S. government can use any patent in its office. However, the government must compensate the creator or face its own judicial system for violating the law.
Pursuing Intellectual Property Infringement
Criminal copyright infringement carries various fines and jail times depending on the severity of the violation. Stealing trade secrets in particular has a punishment of up to 15 years in prison and a $5 million dollar fine. The U.S. Justice Department reports that IP represents the fasting growing sector of the American economy. In addition, they have established a task force to aggressively protect the public from intellectual property crime.
Unfortunately, you can’t always depend on watchdog organizations to protect your innovations. If you have a brilliant invention that needs a patent, a symbol that stands for your company brand or a novel idea, the attorneys of The Oshman Firm are well-versed in Intellectual property law. We can help you retain the rights and value of your brain child. Contact us by filling out the form on this page or call us at (800) 400-8182.