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Home > Law & Legal Topics > Intellectual Property

» Intellectual Property:
Intellectual property law is the branch of law related to works of the mind or intellect, such as ideas, inventions, trade secrets, process, program, data, formula, application, or registration relating thereto. Intellectual property rights often arise out of patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

A patent is property issued by the government to an inventor. A patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention or product for a term of years. A patent may be granted for a process, act, or method that is new, useful, and not obvious, for a new use of a known process, machine, or composition of matter or material, as well as for any asexually reproduced distinct and new variety of plant, ad for any new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Patents may be issued to inventors who submit patent applications to the United States Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO. Design patents are issued for a term of 14 years. Basic or plant patents are for a term of 20 years from the date of the patent application.

A trademark is a mark used by a manufacturer or merchant to identify the origin or ownership of goods and to distinguish them from others and the use of which is protected by law. The USPTO registers trademarks and service marks that are used in interstate commerce or in intrastate commerce that affects interstate commerce. There are also state registration statutes for marks used in intrastate commerce. A trademark or service mark need not be registered for an owner to enforce his rights in court. Registration of a mark serves as evidence of the owner's exclusive right to the continuous use and validity of the mark and as constructive notice to the world of the claim to the mark.

A copyright is a person's exclusive right to reproduce, publish, or sell his original work of authorship. Copyrights are governed by the Copyright Act of 1976. The Act protects published or unpublished works that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression from which they can be preserved. The Act does not protect matters such as an idea, process, system, or discovery. Protection under the Act extends for the life of the creator of the work plus fifty years after his death.

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