This week’s blog post discusses what intellectual property is. There are four types of intellectual property:
- Patents; and
- Trade Secrets.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) does a great job defining the general characteristics of trademark, copyright and patent property rights. http://www.uspto.gov/patents/resources/general_info_concerning_patents.jsp#heading-2
Allow me to give you a brief overview of each type of property:
Trademarks: A trademark is a word, name, symbol, color, device, or packaging (also known as tradedress) that is used with goods to identify the source of the goods. A servicemark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies the source of a service rather than goods. A “trademark” often refers to trademarks and servicemarks. Additionally a trademark is sometimes referred to merely as a mark.
The basis of trademark law is consumer protection. Namely, it is to prevent consumers from being confused by a competitor using a similar mark. Trademarks do not prevent others from making or selling the same goods or performing the same services. It merely prevents them from doing so with a mark that is confusingly similar to yours.
Copyrights: A copyright is a bundle of rights provided to the authors of “original works of authorship.” Those works include literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. The works can be published or unpublished.
A copyright protects the form of expression not the subject matter of the expression. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine.
Patents: A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The right conferred by the patent grant is “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO.
There are three types of patents:
1) Utility patents are for processes, machines, articles of manufacture, or compositions of matter, or any new and useful improvement of such things;
2) Design patents are for inventions of a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
3) Plant patents cover inventions or discoveries for asexually reproduction of any distinct and new variety of plant.
Trade secrets: A trade secret is confidential information used in business and that gives an opportunity to obtain an economic advantage over competitors. The most common types of trade secrets pertain to either technical information or business information. They can include things like secret formulas or recipes or customer lists.
In the following weeks, I will go through the above-described items in further detail, discuss how they can fit into your business, and how a lawyer can help you with your intellectual property.
Putnam Gordon, P.C. is based in San Francisco and focuses on intellectual property law and business law. If you are interested in possibly retaining Putnam Gordon, P.C. to assist with your intellectual property, feel free to contact us. Potential clients may reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more about us on our website at www.putnamgordon.com.
The information above is for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice for any particular situation. No attorney-client relationship is formed until the execution of an engagement agreement.