Intellectual property law comprises four main types of intellectual property: patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Intellectual property (IP) lawyers may specialize in one or more subspecialties of intellectual property law, including copyright law, patent law, trademark law, infringement law and more.
Once you have obtained intellectual property rights, an IP law firm and/or a patent law firm can protect your rights, from patent litigation to litigation involving trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, fraudulent advertising, unfair competition, and e-commerce IP such as domain name disputes.
An intellectual property lawyer can evaluate cases involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, franchising, technology rights, data rights, and internet law and invention development.
Patents are property and patent rights can be licensed and sold. To obtain a patent, your invention must be useful and novel (i.e., not previously known or used), and you must be able to describe it in your patent application.
Patents are granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a branch of the Department of Commerce, for inventions of new and useful compositions, machines, and articles of manufacture or processes.
A patent has 3 basic parts:
(i) A grant
(ii) A description: (“specification”) – telling how to make the invention, and
(iii) Claims: (defining, in words, what is protected).
A Patent Specification or description generally includes four main components:
(i) Background (describing the technical field of the invention and the problems that existed before the invention,
(ii) Drawings (usually required) showing the invention; and
(iii) Detailed description.
(iv) Claims, which define, in words, the limits of coverage claimed by the inventor-
A copyright is considered to be property, and can be sold and licensed like a patent. It is a form of intellectual property that allows the author or artist of an original work exclusive right for a specific time period in relation to that work, including its publication, distribution and adaptation. After that time the work can enter the public domain.
Copyright law protects artists and authors, and in most situations, copying is illegal, particularly when the motivation is commercial gain. The “Fair Use” rule, however, is not a copyright violation. Fair Use includes the following:
(1) Criticism and comment, e.g. quoting or excerpting a work in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment.
(2) News reporting, e.g., summarizing an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report.
(3) Research and scholarship, e.g. quoting a short passage in a scholarly, scientific, or technical work for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations.
(4) Parody, meaning a work that ridicules another, usually well- known, work by imitating it in a comic way.
A trademark is a word, a group of words or a logo that is used in conjunction with the sale of goods to distinguish them’ from those made or sold by someone else. The trademark owner acquires the right to exclude others from using a similar mark on other products to ensure that there is no confusion by the consumer.
Trademark protection is recognized under the laws of individual states and is enforceable in state courts. Marks may be registered with state administrative agencies, usually the Secretary of State. The federal Trademark Act provides for registration of marks used or intended for use in interstate commerce.
Internet law, also known as cyber law, deals with the same legal issues as IP law, but it is applied to the different features of the Internet. Whenever you purchase, write or download anything on the internet, you are subject to exactly the same IP laws as in the non-virtual world.
There are several federal statutes such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in place regarding Internet Law, which covers misappropriation of trade secrets in cyberspace, licenses and antitrust constraints, third- party liability for online content, tort liability of online service providers, privacy issues, constitutional free speech issues, and more.