Copyright, trademark, and patent laws provide intellectual property rights protection to owners of intellectual property. Some rights belong to the owner the moment the person creates the work or acquires an assignment from the original creator of the work, according to common law. Individuals who register their intellectual property rights often have even more protection than what common law can provide. These include protection from others infringing on a created work or patent and protection against others from selling a product in violation of patent or trademark ownership. There are many steps that individuals can take to protect their intellectual property, including providing copyright and trademark notices and renewing rights prior to their expiration.
The owner of a copyrighted work is the only person who has exclusive rights to use and control how the work is used. Those rights are protected by law, and if anyone infringes on those rights, that person is often liable for damages under copyright laws. The person is often ordered by the court to stop his or her use of the work and to turn over materials to the copyright owner. Certain types of works qualify for intellectual property rights protection, and others do not. The work must be fixed in a tangible means of expression, and it’s the expression and not the idea that is often copyrightable.
Trademark protection is another form of intellectual property rights protection wherein the right to use a mark belongs exclusively to the trademark owner. For example, a business owner who has trademarked a logo and a business name is protected by trademark laws from others using the same or similar logo and business name. The owner must show that he actively uses the mark, that the public is confused by the use of a similar mark in the same geographic area or market, and that the mark is being infringed upon by the accused. Trademark registration is not required to obtain protection under the law, but it’s easier to litigate cases when the owner registers a trade or service mark. Trademark laws often allow a plaintiff to claim damages for trademark infringement if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant’s use of the trademark in violation of intellectual property laws was intentional.
Intellectual property rights protection extends to patents, and many issues arise when a patent owner shares his inventions with others during business dealings. For example, an inventor might schedule a meeting with the research and development wing of a large corporation to showcase his prototype and to convince the corporation to license the invention. Patent laws protect the inventor from the corporation copying his invention, either under direct patent infringement laws or the doctrine of equivalents. Patent protection also includes the right to exclude others from using one or more of the patent claims filed to obtain the owner’s patent for his own process or product.