Intellectual Property Law

What Is Intellectual Property Law?

Intellectual property law deals with the rules for securing and enforcing legal rights to inventions, designs, and artistic works. Just as the law protects ownership of personal property and real estate, so too does it protect the exclusive control of intangible assets. The purpose of these laws is to give an incentive for people to develop creative works that benefit society, by ensuring they can profit from their works without fear of misappropriation by others.

Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress express authority to grant authors and inventors exclusive rights to their creations. Section 8 also gives Congress the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, providing further support for its right to legislate in this area. Intellectual property laws passed by Congress are administered by two government agencies, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the U.S. Copyright Office.

Patents give inventors the right to use their product in the marketplace, or to profit by transferring that right to someone else. Depending on the type of invention, patent rights are valid for up to 20 years. Qualifying items include new machines, technological improvements, and manufactured goods, including the "look" of a product. Patent protection will be denied if an invention is found to be obvious in design, not useful, or morally offensive.

Trademarks protect symbols, names, and slogans used to identify goods and services. The purpose is to avoid confusion, deter misleading advertising, and help consumers distinguish one brand from another. Since the goal is to distinguish, generic or purely descriptive marks may not qualify. Rights can potentially last forever, and they are obtained by simply using a mark. While not required, owners can register their marks for additional protection.

Copyrights apply to writings, music, motion pictures, architecture, and other original intellectual and artistic expressions. Protection is not available for theories or ideas, or anything that has not been captured in a fixed medium. The act of creation itself produces a copyright and unpublished works are still protected. Use of a copyright symbol and date is common, but not mandatory. Most copyrights are valid for the creator's lifetime, plus 70 years.

Protecting Against Infringement

Infringement refers to the unauthorized use of intellectual property. To protect against infringement, owners should take steps to put the world on notice that their rights exist. Providing notice helps deter infringement by making the owner's rights more visible to those who might inadvertently violate them. It also triggers additional legal benefits, and puts the owner in a better position to prosecute an infringement in court, if that becomes necessary.

Inventors can give notice of their rights by marking their product with the patent number assigned to it by the Patent and Trademark Office. The label "patent pending" can also be used to discourage others from copying the design before the patent is awarded. Notice of trademarks and copyrights is given by placing the appropriate symbol (™, ©, etc.) on the material, and then registering the mark or copyright, so it can be added to the government's database.

If infringement does occur, rights to intellectual property can be enforced in federal court. Before filing a lawsuit, however, owners will want to consult with an attorney and carefully consider whether litigation is in their best interests. Infringement cases are expensive to prosecute, and there is always a risk that the owner's rights, once held up to the scrutiny of a court proceeding, will be revealed as invalid or less extensive than the owner believed.

In the event an owner of intellectual property does sue, and the lawsuit is successful, a number of remedies will be available. The court can order an injunction, meaning the infringer must stop what it is doing. Substantial money damages may also be available. In addition, once the owner's rights are established in court, the infringer may agree to a license agreement. This allows use of the intellectual property to continue, with payments going to the owner.

Rights to intellectual property can be incredibly lucrative, making individuals huge sums of money. Infringement claims have also bankrupted large, profitable companies without warning. With so much at stake, anyone dealing with issues in this area of the law should seek the advice of an attorney. Firms specializing in intellectual property law are available to help owners who are looking to establish, profit from, or defend their rights.

Get Help from an IP Attorney

If you have created or obtained the rights to something unique, an intellectual property attorney can help you protect your interests. Conversely, if someone has accused you of infringement, you want legal counsel to help you fight back. Contact an attorney today to learn more.


Intellectual Property - Know your Rights!

  • A Guide to Intellectual Property Law

    Intellectual property law refers to the laws designed to protect the rights of the owners and creators of intellectual property, which includes inventions, designs, and artistic works. Intellectual property law includes trademark, patent, and copyright laws. Intellectual property laws were designed to encourage the creation of a wide variety of goods and ideas. In this comprehensive guide to intellectual property laws, discover how to register a trademark, patent, or copyright and how to protect from infringing uses.

  • Cease and Desist Letters for Intellectual Property Prohibitions Abroad

    Intellectual property protections in different countries may be difficult to process and accomplish.

  • Counterfeit or Knockoff Designer Goods - Is It Illegal to Purchase Them?

    Every year, millions of Americans visit the little bodegas and shops, often located in ethnic ghettos of large cities, to purchase counterfeit or knockoff designer goods. Others buy these items online, at flea markets, or dozens of other locations.

  • Defending an Intellectual Property Claim Against Obviousness

    When intellectual property is in danger from various claims, it is important to protect it from the numerous issues that may arise.

  • Employee-Created Intellectual Property

    Most employee-created intellectual property has no protection in place for the worker to keep the IP himself or herself after leaving the company or separate from the business.

  • Intellectual Property and the Business Plan

    Intellectual property is important for many businesses, but it is crucial for those that sell products or services based on the IP created by the company.

  • Is it Illegal to Buy Counterfeit or Knockoff Designer Goods?

    To answer the question, it is first important to distinguish between a counterfeit and a knockoff product.

  • Protecting Trade Secrets: How to Draft a Nondisclosure Agreement

    Protecting your competitive advantage - your trade secrets - can be critical to growing your business. And, one of the best ways to do that is through the use of the nondisclosure agreement.

  • Reasons Intellectual Property Is Imperative for Your Business

    Whether the owner of a business has created or own intellectual property, the use of it may be crucial to revenue and imperative to utilize as trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets become more important to the commerce realm.

  • Supreme Court Decision Reduces Post-Sale Intellectual Property Rights

    Intellectual property rights are important to the owner, but this could change due to a sale of the IP based on changes implemented by the Supreme Court.

  • What is a Patent Troll?

    Many have read about legal battles fought between large technology companies and entities referred to as "patent trolls" and wondered, "what is a patent troll?" Obviously, it has something to do with patent laws and infringing on someone's patent rights, but what does it really mean? Who does it apply to? Is anyone who asserts a patent infringement a "troll," or just certain people and entities? Where did the term come from?

  • What is Plagiarism?

    Plagiarism is usually defined as the "wrongful appropriation" of another's words, thoughts, ideas, or expressions and the misrepresentation that they are the representer's original work. Of course, with a definition that broad and vague, most any sort of researched work might be considered plagiarized. However, plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty, but is not a crime, per se.

Intellectual Property Articles

  • What’s in a Fictitious Name?
    A fictitious name is a pseudonym for a business or person that is often most beneficial in marketing and advertising efforts. Fictitious names are regulated by Florida Statute 865.09 and must be registered with the Division of Corporations and published in a local newspaper. A properly filed and registered fictitious name allows the business or person that owns it to conduct business legally under that name and claims the name so it cannot be easily used by others.
  • How Virtual Interior Designers Tackle 6 E-Design Challenges With Their Service Agreements
    Providing e-design services offers interior designers numerous advantages, including increased accessibility to clients and the ability to work remotely. However, like any service conducted primarily online, e-design comes with its own set of challenges. In this article, we go over some of the biggest issues interior designers face when providing e-design services and what their E-Design Services Agreements can say to help mitigate the potential for resulting disputes.
  • Florida Trademark Claims and How to Combat Cybersquatting or Cyberpiracy
    Cybersquatting or cyberpiracy is when someone registers a domain containing your name or that of your business and does it to deprive you of the ability to register that domain. There are several ways to deal with this hijacking from contacting the domain registrant and notifying search engines to alerting the FTC and FCC in the federal government and filing a lawsuit. But a more proactive approach is to purchase domains and register trademarks for your business.
  • Is My Idea Protectable? Well, It Depends . . .
    A Non-Disclosure Agreement is crucial when it comes to protecting your idea. Our latest blog post by our Associate Attorney, Dominique Williams emphasizes the power of NDA and the wide array of ideas that can be safeguarded. Stay informed and protect your creative works with the help of our experienced attorneys. Read the full article on our website and contact us to learn more about how we can assist you with your intellectual property needs.
  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act
    Understanding copyright infringement laws can be challenging. So, we put together an informational guide detailing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). With this guide, hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of copyright infringement and what you can do if someone has infringed your copyright. If you have more questions about copyright infringement or need help addressing other business law issues, contact a business law attorney from Sul Lee Law Firm. Call us today to schedule a consultation.
  • Copyright Ownership in the Age of Generative AI
    Copyright ownership is a complex issue, particularly in the age of generative AI. Our latest blog post by Associate Attorney, Dominique Williams explores this topic in-depth and offers insights into how businesses and creators can navigate the challenges of copyright ownership in the digital age. Stay informed and protect your creative works with the help of our experienced attorneys. Read the full article on our website and contact us to learn more about how we can assist you with your intellectual property needs.
  • A Proposal to Address The U.S. Patent “Thicket” Problem During Examination
    A so-called patent “thicket” is a collection of many patents with overlapping claims, usually from the same patent application family, covering a single product (and its variations). The use of patent “thickets” to protect drugs and biological products has been the subject of Congressional oversight into rising drug prices. As explained below, a smart patent attorney can create a patent “thicket” by filing multiple “Continuation” applications, with different, but not identical, claim language. The practice is within the rules and last month the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the practice in the case of 132 patents covering Abbvie’s drug Humira, stating “What’s wrong with having lots of patents?”
  • Common Legal Claims in Florida Business Disputes
    The three distinct but broad categories of claims that are commonly brought in business disputes in Florida are those grounded in contracts, those based on torts, and those provided by statute. Contract claims may be predicated on a written or oral agreement or a contract implied by law. Torts are claims based on negligence or intentional bad acts. Statutory claims are those where a specific statute defines the claim and the relief. Lawsuits are not the only forum within which businesses can address their disputes. Businesses also have arbitration and direct resolution methods including mediation in addition to the court system. Therefore it is more appropriate to define these claims within the context of the more inclusive concept of business disputes as opposed to limiting them to just lawsuits.
  • Deepfakes in Texas: What Are They and Are They Illegal?
    A quick google search of ‘deepfake’ will bring up hilariously entertaining videos of celebrities and public figures such as Barak Obama, Donald Trump, and Nicolas Cage doing and saying out-of-character things. But Deepfakes — an artificially created false media made to look hyper-realistic — are expanding past mere entertainment and entering into criminal territory. Recently, a mother from Pennsylvania used the cutting-edge technology in an attempt to get her daughter’s cheerleading rivals kicked off the team. Seeing the potential threat that deepfake poses to our perception of reality, Texas lawmakers became the first state to pass a law criminalizing deepfakes. This new era of media tampering is bringing up many questions. Here’s a look at the most current answers to questions about deepfakes in Texas.
  • Benefits of the Intellectual Property Holding Company
    Many companies invest significant funds to develop products and services and the related intellectual property and to retain ownership of such assets. This intellectual property can be a critical element for the success and continued growth of the business. But many nosiness owners focus on the operations of the business and do not take advantage of the tax benefits and liability protection that may be afforded by use of an intellectual property holding company.
  • All Intellectual Property Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Intellectual Property including: copyright, domain names, licensing law, patents, trade secrets and trademark.

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