As intellectual property issues arise more and more often in cyberspace, we all need to better understand the terminology involved. Here are some basic definitions:
Intellectual property: any product of the human mind which the law protects against unauthorized use by others.
Copyright: a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship, ” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies, to perform or display the copyrighted work publicly.
Patent: the grant of a property right to the inventor of an invention. What is granted is the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention — not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import it. The term of a new patent is generally 20 years.
There are three types of patents:
- Utility patents for anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine or article of manufacture
- Design patents for anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture
- Plant patents for anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plants.
Trademark: a word, name, symbol or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. A servicemark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark.
Watermark: a technology that imprints digital Intellectual Property content with digital data that lets the owner track who has viewed, printed, copied or saved the image. Often, if a user attempts to save or copy the content, the digital watermark Intellectual Property prompts the individual to register or pay for the right to use that image. Digital watermarking is often used by stock photography dealers and can also be used to protect documents, passports, concert tickets, etc.
Digital Rights Management (DRM): a system for protecting the copyrights of digital content that is distributed online, whether it is downloaded, printed, passed from peer-to-peer, or viewed.
Please note that intellectual property law is constantly changing. Be sure to consult an attorney whenever intellectual property issues arise.