COPYRIGHTS, PATENTS, AND TRADEMARKS DEFINED
Copyrights, patents, and trademarks can be among the most valuable assets of a business.
Copyrights protect original artistic or literary works. Federal law protects “original works of authorship” such as literary works, music compositions, and artistic works. Copyrights are registered with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. The owners of copyrights may directly or by authorizing others:
- Make copies of the copyrighted work;
- Prepare additional works based upon the copyrighted work;
- Sell or lease copies to the public; and
- Display or perform the work in public.
Patents protect inventions. The inventor is granted a property right in the invention by the Patent and Trademark Office for a term of 20 years beginning generally from the date that the application for the patent was filed. Countries grant patents that generally are effective within the country granting the patent. Regarding a patent issued by the United States, the patent owner has the right to bar others from making, using, selling, or importing the patented item in the United States.
Trademarks protect the identification of the source of a product or service. The terms “trademark” or “mark” may be used to refer to trademarks and service marks. A trademark is any word, phrase, symbol, or design or group of such items used to identify and distinguish the goods of one person or business from the goods of another person or business. A service mark is an identification of a service in contrast to a trademark’s identification of a product.
Trademark ownership arises upon legitimate use of the mark in commerce. The owners of trademark rights may choose to register their trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to put others on notice of their ownership of the trademarks and to raise a legal presumption in favor of their ownership of the trademarks.
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