Intellectual property is anything you create that is unique and provides you with economic benefit. It includes designs, inventions, trade secrets and original works of authorship. If you have intellectual property, protecting it is critical for the success of your business.
Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual property law deals with protecting the rights of those who innovate and exists to encourage new technology, artistic expression and innovation while encouraging economic activity by insuring the work of creative individuals will be protected so they will benefit from their efforts.
Intellectual property rights are at the very foundation of the several industries. The term encompasses a number of intangible ownership rights with each right itself an asset and a piece of the total ownership pie. The way in which you protect your intellectual property depends on what types you have.
There are basically four kinds—trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents. Each of these affords its own type of legal protection. Trade secrets, copyrights and patents are used to protect the technology itself, while trademarks protect the symbols and names that distinguish products in the market place.
These rights stem from the U.S. Constitution, which gave Congress the power to facilitate the advancement of science and useful arts by assigning authors and inventors sole rights to their discoveries and creations for a certain period of time. In essence, the laws give and protect your right to own and profit from your artistic, scientific and inventive talents and ideas.
Why You May Want to Hire an Intellectual Property Lawyer
Maximizing the economic value of your intellectual property depends on understanding the nature of the rights involved and how to best use the types of legal protection available.
Making sure your intellectual property rights are protected and defending them when necessary can be a rather technical task requiring detailed knowledge of specific aspects of intellectual property law. While your average lawyer is likely to have some basic knowledge in this area, an intellectual property attorney has special knowledge of relevant law and often has a law practice devoted exclusively to this area.
There may be times when you need to hire an intellectual property lawyer for a single task, such as registering a trademark, or when it would be advisable to retain an intellectual property attorney on a continual basis, as might be the case if you need to register a significant number of copyrights. Moreover, if you feel someone has stolen a creative idea that belongs to you, you should contact an intellectual property lawyer to discuss the situation and determine if you need to take legal action to ensure your rights remain intact.
A Landmark Decision
For example, in a landmark case decided February 12, 2001 (the case of AM Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.) Napster could have been held liable for copyright infringement. An injunction assigned Napster the burden of making sure no distributing of AM Record’s property occurred on their system. Noting that Napster’s system did not verify copyright ownership, the court found it was AM Record’s burden to inform Napster of infringing files on the system, which Napster would then have to remove. The court also called for the imposition of a compulsory royalty eliminating AM Records’ ability to control their intellectual property.
Just recently (May 14, 2012), Victor Willis, a singer for the 70s band The Village People, won a judgment in a case that would have stopped him from claiming copyright to songs on a number of the band’s tracks.
How to Find an Intellectual Property Lawyer
If you need an intellectual property attorney, you have a few options. You could ask a friend, family member or acquaintance you trust to recommend a lawyer known to be reputable, especially if they had personal experience with the law firm. They would be able to inform you as to how the firm treated them and dealt with the case, as well as the outcome and cost. (Keep in mind however that fees can vary significantly depending on the type of case.)
Another option is to conduct an internet search. There are services with searchable databases that specialize in referring intellectual property attorneys, or you could even conduct your own search by using the keywords “intellectual property lawyer” plus your location.
The California state bar association can provide a list of attorneys in your area. Note however that the field of intellectual property requires someone with advanced knowledge of applicable law, so make sure the attorney or firm you choose is experience handling cases like yours. Check out the attorney’s training and experience and meet first for a consultation.