A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the U.S. or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. U.S. patent grants are effective only within the U.S. Under certain circumstances, patent term extensions or adjustments may be available.
1) Utility patents may be 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;
2) Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
3) Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
Cyberlaw or Internet law is a term that encapsulates the legal issues related to use of the Internet. It is less a distinct field of law than intellectual property or contract law, as it is a domain covering many areas of law and regulation.
A trademark is a word, name, symbol, logo, or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than products. The terms “trademark” and “mark” are commonly used to refer to both trademarks and servicemarks.
Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark.
Trade Secret Law
In addition to patents, trademarks, and copyrights, is the area of law characterized as trade secrets. Trade secrets consist of proprietary information or know-how, such as a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process. To meet the most common definition of a trade secret, it must be used in business, and give an opportunity to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.
Trade secret protection is an alternative to patent protection. Patents require the inventor to provide a detailed and enabling disclosure about the inventive technology in exchange for the right to exclude others from practicing the invention for a limited period of time. Patents do expire, and when that happens the information contained within or taught by the patent is no longer protected. However, unlike trade secrets, patents protect against independent discovery. Patent protection also eliminates the need to maintain secrecy. While most anything can be kept secret, there are limitations on what can be protected by a patent. If a given invention is eligible for either patent or trade secret protection, then the decision on how to protect that invention depends on business considerations and weighing the relative benefits of each type of intellectual property.
Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of "original works of authorship" including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.
One of the key challenges for businesses today is to remain profitable in a slowing but increasingly global economy. They are under pressure to create new opportunities and new revenue streams from existing assets. Often businesses need new or original innovations and/or creative expressions to create new products, enhance existing products, and explore new markets. These crucial innovations and expressions, which are increasingly valuable economic assets in today’s economy, need to be protected by using the tools of the intellectual property system before revealing or sharing them. Only then can a business leverage these economic assets as intellectual property (IP) assets for gaining and retaining competitive advantage.
Most businesses and entrepreneurs choose to share or team up with others for mutual benefit. This can be done in various ways such as outsourcing, joint ventures, consultancy, arms-length licensing, or entering into strategic alliances for one or more business purposes. Businesses enter into these types of partnership arrangements as part of their endeavor to do everything legally and ethically possible to improve their bottom line and sustain or increase profits. Many of these situations require formal contractual arrangements that involve
“licensing in” or “licensing out” of one or
more types of IP. Often businesses do both; engaging in “cross licensing”, where both parties license IP to each other.