Telecom Tips for Entrepreneurs
The following information was designed to help direct and inform entrepreneurs on the basic areas of Intellectual Property. This page was not intended to give all the needed information on how to prepare and file an application for registration.
In conjunction with the information on this page, you should consult a Do-It-Yourself book (bottom of this page) or speak with an intellectual property attorney or agent (listed on the Related Links page of this website).
Intellectual Property refers to intangible property such as an idea, expression, industrial process, or invention that has value in a market. Intellectual Property Law covers legal principles which determine who owns, when and how a person can utilize a creation. Intellectual Property includes Patent Law, Copyright Law, Trademark Law, Trade Secret Law, and Unfair Competition Law.
Patent Law protects mental creations or concepts referred to as inventions by giving a right to exclude others from using, making, or selling the invention for 17 years. A patent application can only be filed by the inventor, either by him/herself or by a qualified representative. Three types of patents are recognized: utility, design, and plant. Click here for further explanations on Patent Law click here.
Trademark Law protects the ownership of a symbol, word, sound, or design used by a person or company in services or marketing goods. Examples of trademarks are Xerox, Kodak, Ford, and Taco Bell. Advertising slogans are usually not considered trademarks but courts sometimes give slogans trademark rights provided the slogans are used consistently as brand names for specific goods. Slogans are also covered by Copyright Law and Unfair Competition Law. Trademarks must be granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) through applications filed by the applicant or a qualified representative.
Copyright Law protects the works of authors, programmers, artists, and composers from being copied or using their original work without permission. Copyright law gives Cal. Western offensive rights against anyone who copies these web pages. Copyright applications are easy to file and can be registered either through the state and/or the U.S. Copyright Office.
Trade Secret Law
Trade Secret Law protects the private knowledge that gives an owner a competitive business advantage. Examples are manufacturing processes, chemical recipes and formulae. Business information such as client lists, names of suppliers, and price lists are also covered by trade secret law. Courts require the owner to take reasonable steps to protect the private knowledge. No registration of trade secrets are required for protection.
Unfair Competition Law
Unfair Competition Law protects owners of non-functional mental creations that do not fit into one of the categories above but have been unfairly copied by competitors. Examples are product packaging labels (like Kodak’s yellow film package), business names, and unique advertising slogans. No registration of creations are required.
Qualified representatives of the USPTO are either patent attorneys or patent agents.
Patent attorneys are state certified attorneys and have also been certified by the USPTO.
Patent agents are only qualified to practice Patent and Trademark Law and are not certified state attorneys.
For further information on filing dates, requirements, fees, and definitions consult an attorney, the following do-it-yourself manuals, or web sites:
The Copyright Handbook, by Steven Fishman (Nolo Press)
Copyright Your Software, by Steven Fishman (Nolo Press)
Software Development: A Legal Guide, by Steven Fishman (Nolo Press)
Patent It Yourself, by Patent Attorney David Pressman, (Nolo Press, 3rd Ed., 1995)
Trademark: How to Name Your Business & Product, by McGrath & Elias (Nolo Press, Spring 1992)
Trademark Law Handbook, by U.S. Trademark Association, (Clark Boardman)
Trademark and Unfair Competition, by McCarthy, (2nd ed., Lawyers Coop., 1984)
Related Web Sites
US Copyright Office
Text of the US Copyright Act of 1976
Copyright Clearinghouse Center (Licenses use of copyrighted works)
US Patent Trade Office