Just like other kinds of property, intellectual property needs protection from theft and misuse and you can profit from it. Some people confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection, they are different and serve different purposes.
A patent gives an inventor the right to exclude all others from making, using, importing, selling or offering to sell his/her invention for up to 20 years without the inventor's permission. This gives the inventor the opportunity to produce and market his/her idea, or license others to do so, and to make a profit.
In the U.S., a patent is issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO after reviewing a patent application. A United States patent only protects and provides exclusive rights in the United States. Similar patent protection is offered in other countries.
Copyright is the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. These rights can be licensed, transferred and/or assigned. Copyright lasts for a certain time period after which the work is said to enter the public domain. Copyright applies to a wide range of works that are substantive and fixed in a medium.
Copyright is literally, the right to copy, though in legal terms "the right to control copying" is more accurate. The copyright owner is given two sets of rights: an exclusive, positive right to copy and exploit the copyrighted work, or license others to do so, and a negative right to prevent anyone else from doing so without consent, with the possibility of legal remedies if they do.
Copyright initially only granted the exclusive right to copy a book, allowing anybody to use the book to, for example, make a translation, adaptation or public performance.
A patent usually refers to a right granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. Specific types like utility patent are used to distinguish them from other types of patents (e.g. design patents). Examples of particular kinds of patents for inventions include biological patents, business method patents, chemical patents and software patents.
Some other types of intellectual property rights are also sometimes referred to as patents. E.g., industrial design rights may be called design patents (they protect the visual design of objects), plant breeders' rights are sometimes called plant patents, and utility models are sometimes called innovation patents.
A patent is not a right to practice or use the invention. Rather, a patent provides the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the patented invention.
A trademark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify the products or services to consumers and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities.
A trademark is a type of intellectual property, and typically a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these elements. There is also a range of non-conventional trademarks comprising marks which do not fall into these standard categories.
The owner of a registered trademark may commence legal proceedings for trademark infringement to prevent unauthorized use of that trademark. However, registration is not required. The owner of a common law trademark may also file suit, but an unregistered mark may be protectable only within the geographical area within which it has been used or in geographical areas into which it may be reasonably expected to expand.
A service mark is a trademark used to identify a service rather than a product. When a service mark is federally registered, the standard registration symbol (R) or "Reg U.S. Pat & TM Off" may be used (the same symbol is used to mark registered trademarks). Before it is registered, it is common practice (with some legal standing) to use the service mark symbol SM (a superscript SM).
A service mark differs from a trademark in that the mark is used on the advertising of the service rather than on the packaging or delivery of the service, since there is generally no "package" to place the mark on, which is the practice for trademarks. E.g., a private carrier can paint their service marks on their vehicles, such as on planes or buses. Personal service providers can place their service marks on their delivery vehicles, such as on the trucks of plumbers or on moving vans. However, if the service deals with communications, it is possible to use a service mark consisting of a sound.
The Internet has made it possible for anyone with a computer and modem to become a Web publisher. But, even though technology has made information more accessible to everyone, copyright and trademark laws still apply to Web publishing, and websites are common targets for infringement lawsuits. But it's not hard to stay out of legal trouble if you know the rules.
If you want to use someone else's work on your website, you need to get permission from the author or creator of the work. Even though technology has made information more accessible to everyone, copyright and trademark laws still apply to Web publishing, and websites are common targets for infringement lawsuits. Here are some tips that can help you avoid legal trouble when using other's work on your site.
Since 1998, an increasing number of patents have been issued to software and Internet companies that have devised novel ways of doing business - for example, new online ordering processes.
As more companies move to put information and products onto the Internet, the clashes over Internet domain names have become very common. These clashes have challenged the law and the Internet community to develop new procedures and legal rules that adequately address the equities involved.
The disputes that arise over domain names involve "second level" domain names. The second level name is the name directly to the left of the top-level domain name in an Internet address. For instance, in the address "www.microsoft.com", the second level domain name is Microsoft.
Two identical second level domain names cannot coexist under the same top level domain. E.g., even though both the Delta Faucet Company and Delta Airlines would like the "delta.com" domain name, only one Delta company can have delta.com.
When a dispute over a domain name occurs, the parties can always turn to the courts. Courts and judges have the authority to award control and ownership over domain names.
Email messages can be intercepted and read anywhere in transit, or reconstructed and read off of backup devices, for a potentially infinite period of time.
If you're sending email at work, your boss can legally monitor it, and if your company becomes involved in a lawsuit, your adversary has the legal right to review it. On your first day of a new job, you may be asked to sign and acknowledge some form of employer email policy. This policy will probably inform you that email is to be used only for everyday business purposes, that the computer systems at work are the property of your employer, that email may be monitored, and that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in your use of email. A written statement like this, signed by an employee, creates a contract upon which an employer can rely if they want to snoop. Equally important, if a dispute arises over monitoring of email, the employer can point to the signed statement to show that it was unreasonable.
Electronic contracts and electronic signatures are just as legal and enforceable as traditional paper contracts signed in ink. Electronic contracts and signatures are as legally valid as paper contracts.
An electronic contract is an agreement created and "signed" in electronic form - no paper or other hard copies are used. E.g., you write a contract on your computer and email it to a business associate, and the business associate emails it back with an electronic signature indicating acceptance.
An e-contract can also be in the form of a "Click to Agree" contract, commonly used with downloaded software: the user clicks an "I Agree" button on a page containing the terms of the software license before the transaction can be completed.
Since a traditional ink signature isn't possible on an electronic contract, people use several different ways to indicate their electronic signatures, including typing the signer's name into the signature area, pasting in a scanned version, etc.