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All About Intellectual Property: The Differences Between Copyrights, Trademarks, Patents, and Trade Secrets

Trademark-Copyrights-Patents

In the age of current technology, inventions, and ideas, protection for intellectual property has become quite common in our society. The four types of intellectual property- copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets– are often heard in everyday conversation. But how do we differentiate between these four protections?  This blog is to act as a guide in explaining the basics of intellectual property.

Copyrights: 

Copyright protection is available for original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form, whether published or unpublished. The categories of work that can be protected include paintings, literary works, live performances, photographs, movies, and software. It is important to understand that copyright law covers the “form of material expression,” and not the actual concepts, ideas, techniques, or facts in a particular work, hence why it must be in tangible form.

Trademarks:

Trademark protection is available for certain names, symbols, devices, or words that will be used in connection with a good or service. The purpose behind trademarks is to allow companies and individuals to indicate the source of their goods or services and to distinguish them from others in the industry. A trademark not only gives the owner the exclusive right to use the mark but also allows the owner to prevent others from using a similar mark that may be confusing to the general public. It does not, however, prevent others from making or selling the same good or service.

Patents: 

​A patent is a right granted to an inventor that permits that inventor to exclude others from making, selling, or using his or her invention for a period of time. For an invention to qualify for a patent, it must be both “novel” and “non-obvious.” An invention is novel if it is different from other similar inventions in one or more of its parts. It also must not have been publicly used, sold, or patented by another inventor within a year of the date that the patent application is filed. As for the second qualification, an invention is non-obvious if someone who is skilled in the relevant field of the invention would consider its development to be unexpected or surprising.

Trade Secrets: 

Trade secrets consist of information, including formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques, or processes. To meet the definition of a trade secret, the information must be used in business, and grant the user an opportunity to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know of it or use it. This protection is fairly limited, as a trade secret holder is only protected from unauthorized disclosure and use. If a trade secret holder fails to maintain secrecy or if the information is independently discovered, becomes released, or otherwise becomes generally known, protection as a trade secret is lost. However, trade secrets do not expire, so protection continues until discovery or loss.

If you have additional questions, or if you are looking to protect your ideas, products, or business, you should contact an experienced intellectual property attorney.

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What Is DMCA And Does It Apply To My Business?

DMCA-DMCA-RIghts

What Is DMCA And Does It Apply To My Business?

If you are more or less aware of digital trends and developments, you have probably heard about the war that Taylor Swift declared on YouTube. This is one of the most prominent examples of a DMCA claim and its consequences.

To get a better idea of how DMCA applies to your business, it’s important to take a look at the definition and the current DMCA laws.

What is the DMCA: A Quick Overview

DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Enacted by Congress in 1998, the act was one of the biggest modifications to the US Copyright Act. Such changes were needed to protect intellectual property (copyright) in the face of new interactions stemming from the use of internet-based communication channels.

Having a DMCA policy on one’s website is a really good idea. Very often, it’s not featured individually but rather included in the website’s terms and conditions. (See here for questions about Website Terms and Conditions) The clause outlines how the company will respond to take-down notices for the removal of copyrighted material from the website. 

Standard DMCA policies provide information about what a copyright infringement is, how a claim can be filed in the case of a DMCA violation, and what information a claim should include.

Protecting Your Own Copyrighted Work:

When looking at what a DMCA is, it’s also important to point out that it protects your intellectual property against copyright infringement. If you discover that somebody has been using your content without permission, you can file a DMCA claim. A DMCA notice needs to be filled out correctly in order to be valid. DMCA law suggests that the notice should feature the following elements:

  • The physical or electronic signature of the copyright holder
  • Identification of the copyrighted work and the infringement that has occurred, as well as the place where the copyrighted work has been published (a website, YouTube video, social media post, etc.)
  • The contact information of the copyright holder
  • A statement on behalf of the copyright holder that explains the respective use has not been authorized
  • A signed statement that the information included in the DMCA claim is accurate

The Importance of Ensuring DMCA Compliance:

Due to the fact that more and more online platforms allow for user-generated content to be uploaded, DMCA claims are proliferating. A part of the DMCA policy is to offer the platform protection against claims that result from content uploaded by a third party.

Take-down letters can still be sent to website owners for the purpose of removing the copyrighted material. The online platform, however, is exempted from liability whenever there’s no knowledge or intentional abuse that the material was copyrighted by someone else.

Both copyright owners and web service providers can find it difficult to navigate the DMCA clauses. In such instances, a consultation with an experienced legal professional will be of paramount importance. Through a legal consultation, both copyright protection and DMCA exemptions will be explained and understood much better.

If you don’t know how to address copyright issues or how to craft a DMCA clause for your website, get in touch with a lawyer that specializes in intellectual property. A single consultation will be sufficient to answer your most pressing questions.