Intellectual property can be confusing for those who are creators or inventors. Individuals and small businesses are especially vulnerable in protecting everything from their products or artistic works to their brand names and logos, and they may not have the resources or know-how to pursue legal action in the event of theft. If you are one of these entrepreneurs, here is what you may need to know about intellectual property law in the United States:
What is intellectual property law?
The term intellectual property refers to any creations of the mind. The three most frequent forms of intellectual property are copyrights, trademarks, and patents; however, things like trade secrets, industrial designs, and even geographic locations can also hold intellectual property rights. In the United States, the majority of these types of IP are handled by the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Although these offices provide registration and regulation of these laws, they generally won’t pursue legal action in cases of theft or infringement.
What is intellectual property law for copyright holders?
Copyright can be an especially tricky type of IP to navigate because it doesn’t deal with tangible works. For example, copyright and patent laws differ in that patents deal with tangible objects and designs, and it’s fairly obvious to most people when these creations have been infringed upon. Copyright can be confusing for artists and writers because of laws governing fair use. The most important thing for these creators to remember, though, is that their work is granted copyright once it is created, regardless of whether it is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office (or other copyright institution in another country).
Why is intellectual property protection so important?
In addition to providing you with legal protection for your written and artistic works, inventions, designs, and other creations, intellectual property laws help to protect you from infringement. Infringement occurs when a rival company or another person or business has used your ideas and claimed them as their own.
This sort of infringement happens more than you might think. On the internet, at least 25% of all traffic is thought to be used to consume infringed content. But this isn’t a crime perpetrated only by random strangers. Trusted business partners account for 17% of all intellectual property theft, and former employees make up 21% of such crimes. These insider crimes occur most frequently in the information technology (35% of cases), finance (13%), and chemical (12%) industries.
If you’re a creator who is still wondering “What is intellectual property law, and what will give me the best protection from infringement?”, the best way to receive answers is to speak to an intellectual property rights lawyer who knows about your creations. For instance, if you have asexually produced a new species of plant, then you would want to deal with a lawyer who knows about plant patents. Working with an intellectual property lawyer is the first step in protecting your creation, and it’s also the best defense when it comes to protecting your ideas, as well.