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Chapter 23 Intellectual Property

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should understand the following:

  1. The principal kinds of intellectual property
  2. The difference between patents and trade secrets, and why a company might choose to rely on trade secrets rather than obtain a patent
  3. What copyrights are, how to obtain them, and how they differ from trademarks
  4. Why some “marks” may not be eligible for trademark protection, and how to obtain trademark protection for those that are

Few businesses of any size could operate without being able to protect their rights to a particular type of intangible personal property: intellectual propertyIntangible personal property whose major forms are patents, copyrights, and trademarks.. The major forms of intellectual property are patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Unlike tangible personal property (machines, inventory) or real property (land, office buildings), intellectual property is formless. It is the product of the human intellect that is embodied in the goods and services a company offers and by which the company is known.

A patentA grant from government that gives an inventor the exclusive right to make, use, and sell an invention for a period of twenty years from the date of filing the application for a patent. is a grant from government that gives an inventor the exclusive right to make, use, and sell an invention for a period of twenty years from the date of filing the application for a patent. A copyrightThe legal right given “authors” to prevent others from copying the expression embodied in a protected work. is the right to exclude others from using or marketing forms of expression. A trademarkDefined by the federal Lanham Act of 1946 as “any word, name, symbol, or device or any combination thereof adopted and used by a manufacturer or merchant to identify his goods and distinguish them from goods manufactured or sold by others.” is the right to prevent others from using a company’s product name, slogan, or identifying design. Other forms of intellectual property are trade secrets (particular kinds of information of commercial use to a company that created it) and right of publicity (the right to exploit a person’s name or image). Note that the property interest protected in each case is not the tangible copy of the invention or writing—not the machine with a particular serial number or the book lying on someone’s shelf—but the invention or words themselves. That is why intellectual property is said to be intangible: it is a right to exclude any others from gaining economic benefit from your own intellectual creation. In this chapter, we examine how Congress, the courts, and the Patent and Trademark Office have worked to protect the major types of intellectual property.