Intellectual property rights law and practice refer to the legal issues that surround intellectual property (IP) including copyrights, patents, trademarks, and much more. 

What Is Intellectual Property Law?

Intellectual property has become a big topic in the legal and business world over the past several years, but many are still unsure of what intellectual property (IP) actually is, why it is such a popular topic, and what forms of IP litigation are out there. 

The term "intellectual property" covers a wide scope of fields and sometimes lawyers who want to work in the field of IP, don't have a good understanding of this type of litigation. Certain areas of IP law are more active than others, for instance, IP technology and piracy is a very hot topic in the current economic climate. Different forms of IP have different rules and regulations surrounding them, so it's important for IP lawyers to know their specific fields well. 

A healthy economy is one that encourages innovation, invention, and creativity. Intellectual property rights law and practice protects inventors and creators from being taken advantage of and therefore encourages them to continue creating. Because of the importance of IP to a country's economic welfare, IP litigation is an important field of practice. 

Definition of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is anything created in a tangible form with commercial value. This can include things like:

  • Written works (books, plays, poetry)
  • Artistic works (sculptures, paintings, drawings)
  • Recorded works (music, movies, television shows)
  • Computer software

There are different ways to protect IP, including:

  • Patents (meant to protect innovations, ideas, processes, and other less tangible IP)
  • Copyrights (meant to protect printed, recorded, and other physical materials)
  • Trademarks (meant to protect names and symbols used to identify a certain brand)

Companies can also protect IP that holds secrets to their success like formulas for a certain type of food or skincare product, which are called trade secrets. These are especially important for companies trading in a competitive market to give them an advantage over competitors. 

The kind of protection that is now afforded to ideas, processes, and products, used to be only given to real estate and other physical property. In the current economy, IP is treated just like any other property as it can be traded, sold, and even leased. 

Companies used to find most of their value in the physical properties they owned like real estate, machines, and otherwise, but now some of the most successful companies are full of protected IP in the form of patents and trade secrets. Because of this shift in IP value, piracy has become a huge threat to major companies and the marketplace as a whole. 

Trademark Law

If a company decides to protect its title or brand by trademarking the specific words, logos, symbols, or phrases used in their marketing they have the right to sue another entity for using their trademark. Usually, if a company or individual finds that another is infringing on their trademark, they can simply file an injunction which will legally force the infringer to stop. 

Companies across the marketplace protect their brands with trademark laws, including Microsoft, Apple, and Coca-Cola. 

Creatives like artists, writers, photographers, musicians, and others use copyright law to protect their works and retain ownership. An author might choose to allow a publisher to distribute their work, but that's under a specific agreement with the publishing company. If someone downloads an author's manuscript, prints and sells it without the permission of the author, that falls under copyright infringement and that person will be held liable. 

Copyrights do not protect titles or names, those fall under the realm of trademark law. Generally speaking, trademarks are meant to protect how a product is advertised or marketed, while copyrights protect the product itself. 

Patent Law

Inventions, innovations, and processes are protected under patent laws. If a chemical engineer discovers a new use for a particular substance, they can file a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to keep others from using and selling that substance in the same way for as long as 20 years. This gives inventors ample opportunity to develop and profit from their innovations and creativity. 

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