The doctrine of intellectual property is a crucial aspect of business, particularly if you intend to create or invent a product or process that you want to be protected from unauthorized use.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is defined as the intangible right that protects any product stemming from human intelligence or creation. This will include patented inventions, copyrightable works, and trade secrets.

Intellectual property is typically governed federally, although state law will also mandate intellectual property. The rights are not governing an abstract idea or nonphysical item. Instead, the intellectual property rights will cover any physical creation or expression of an idea.

The laws that protect intellectual property are rooted in a long history that goes all the way back to before ancient Greece. As many legal systems began to grow in the protection of intellectual works, a fine-tuning of protected works in different areas was born. At the same time, different aspects of the need for intellectual property were provided.

There have been some that are critical of intellectual property as well as the systems used to protect it. It is ideal to fully understand the base of intellectual property and fair use, as it is the first step of making sure that you do not infringe on the rights of others.

Keep in mind that copyright laws do not fall into a criminal law category. Some copyright laws will result in criminal punishment. However, the bulk of the intellectual property laws deal with prevention of theft and compensation for use, both being civil issues.

Laws governing intellectual property provide the owners with the ability to enforce their rights in court. They also provide for damages if there is any misuse or unauthorized use.

History of Intellectual Property

One of the first instances of protection of intellectual property goes back to 500 B.C.E. Chefs in Sybaris, a Greek colony, were given a one-year monopoly for their creation of certain culinary specialties.

There’s a minimum of three more ancient examples of intellectual property, which are cited in Bruce Bugbee’s work, The Genesis of American Patent and Copyright Law. The initial case is when Vitruvius dealt with the theft of intellectual property occurring at a literary contest in Alexandria. Vitruvius, serving as the judge, exposed the literary thieves. They were subsequently tried and convicted for their thievery and were ultimately disgraced for stealing.

The other two cases came from Roman times during the first century. There are no Roman laws that provided intellectual property rights; the Roman jurists talked about how the different forms of ownership interests of intellectual property and how it was codified.

There are also references to the piracy of literary works by the Roman Martial. Fidentinus is discovered to be reciting the works of Martial and not providing a source of the words.

As of now, there are no known institutions of the protection of intellectual property in Ancient Rome or Greece. From the time of the Romans to the time of the Florentine Republic, there were several franchises, royal favors, and privileges provided to the rights of intellectual property.

The author discusses the differences between royal favors or franchises and the intellectual property system. Royal favors and franchises reduce the ability to access intellectual work that is currently in the public, resulting in decrees that remove something from citizens.

In contrast, an inventor does not deprive the public of anything that was in existence before the invention.

Among the first statutes protecting author’s rights was provided by the Republic of Florence in June of 1421 to Filippo Brunelleschi, who was a very famous architect. The statute recognized the intrinsic rights of inventors and authors to their intellectual property, but it also created an incentive that eventually became a distinguished feature of Anglo-American protection.

For many reasons, the Florentine patent statute of 1421 only issued a single patent to Brunelleschi. The primary basis for this first patent is found in a 1474 statute of the Venetian Republic. It appeared over a century before the Statute of Monopolies of England.

From this, the following occurred:

  • Inventor’s rights were recognized
  • Incentives were included
  • Compensation for any infringements was established
  • Term limits on the inventor’s rights were established

The American forms of intellectual property protection are rooted in the English system that started with the Statute of Monopolies and the Statute of Anne.

The Statute of Monopolies provided a 14-year monopoly to inventor and authors and stopped the practice of giving rights to non-original or new ideas or works that were currently in the public domain.

Contrasting from those patent institutions in Europe, works of literature were primarily unprotected until the Gutenberg printing press arrived during the 15th century. Although there were not many truly copyrighted works granted at this point, most were in the form of privileges, monopolies, and grants.

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