Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Types of Intellectual Property

I had written few articles on protecting intellectual property. WTO recognizes 14 types of IP, But from a common legal standpoint, US courts recognize only four types of IP. Intellectual property must be registered in one of these four categories to claim legal protection.
Even to claim protection, companies must correctly register their IP with the state and federal authorities first. If a company’s IP are infringed upon, the company must then file a complaint with the state or federal courts to prosecute the offenders.

The four legally protected categories of IP are:
  • Patents

    Inventions has to be registered with the government and these are called patents. A patent registration process can take more than one year, and if it is granted, the inventor gains the legal right to exclude anyone else from manufacturing or marketing it. Patents cover tangible and intangible things. Today it is prudent to register patents in foreign countries also. This will help prevent international competitors from infringing on patent in other countries. Patents have a definite life span. Once it is registered, the legal protection for a patent lasts for only 20 years. After which the patent becomes a public property.

  • Trademarks

    A trademark is a name, phrase, sound or symbol used in association with services or products. It often connects a brand with a level of quality on which companies build a reputation. Trademark protection lasts for 10 years after registration and, like patents, can be renewed. But trademarks don't have to be registered. If a company creates a symbol or name it wishes to use exclusively, it can simply attach the TM symbol. This effectively marks the territory and gives the company room to prosecute if other companies attempt to use the same symbol for their own purposes.

  • Copyrights

    Copyright laws protect written or artistic expressions fixed in a tangible medium - novels, poems, songs or movies. A copyright protects the expression of an idea, but not the idea itself. The owner of a copyrighted work has the right to reproduce it, to make derivative works from it (such as a movie based on a book), or to sell, perform or display the work to the public. You don't need to register your material to hold a copyright, but registration is a prerequisite if you decide to sue for copyright infringement. A copyright lasts for the life of the author plus another 50 years.

  • Trade secrets

    A formula, pattern, device or compilation of data that grants the user an advantage over competitors is a trade secret. It is covered by state, rather than federal, law. To protect the secret, a business must prove that it adds value to the company - that it is, in fact, a secret - and that appropriate measures have been taken within the company to safeguard the secret, such as restricting knowledge to a select handful of executives. Coca-Cola, for example, has managed to keep its formula under wraps for more than 117 years.

Closing Thoughts

Legal means to protect an IP is complex. It is best to retain an IP lawyer who takes care of registering IP and provides continuos advice on protecting it. Companies in emerging economies have to invest seriously to develop a process and means to protect their IP. Indian & Chinese companies have to play catch-up with the US & EU companies when it comes to protecting their IP.

Also see:

Protecting IP Assets of an Organization
Creating a Culture for Innovation and Protecting Intellectual Property - Part 1
Creating a Culture for Innovation and Protecting Intellectual Property - Part 2


વિચારો નો વૈભવ ને શબ્દો ની જાહોજલાલી,,, said...
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વિચારો નો વૈભવ ને શબ્દો ની જાહોજલાલી,,, said...
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Law Pandit said...

sir can u please post all 14types of IP ??? with details???