The leading IP reference

Patent, Copyright & Trademark

An Intellectual Property Desk Reference

A plain-English guide to intellectual property law

Intellectual property law got you confused? Decipher all the language associated with patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret law in Patent, Copyright & Trademark. This definitive desk reference explains common issues such as:

  • what inventions, creative works, and brands qualify for patents, copyrights, and trademarks
  • how trade secret law protects valuable business information
  • how to enforce IP rights

See below for a full product description.

  • Product Details
  • Patent, Copyright & Trademark is a unique, comprehensive reference that explains the complex and fast-moving laws of intellectual property (IP). It covers patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets, and for each includes:

    • an overview of the law
    • recent developments in the law
    • the scope of IP protection
    • sample registration forms and other forms
    • a substantial glossary of terms

    Topics in the book include:

    • the types of patents and the basics of applying for a patent
    • what copyright protects and how AI is impacting copyright as we know it
    • what marks can be registered and how to register a trademark
    • what qualifies as a trade secret and how to protect trade secrets

    Patent, Copyright & Trademark is a handy, one-stop reference for businesses that own or deal in IP, attorneys who need to have a basic understanding of IP law, individual inventors and creators, and anyone who wants to understand how this important area of law and business works.

    “A reliable, easily comprehended introduction to intellectual property law. ”—Library Journal

    “This book provides clear, plain-English definitions of intellectual property terminology….”—Popular Mechanics


    Number of Pages
  • About the Author
    • Richard Stim, Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

      Attorney Richard Stim specialized in small business, copyright, patents, and trademark issues at Nolo. He has authored many books, including Music Law: How to Run Your Band's Business; Patent, Copyright & Trademark: An Intellectual Property Desk Reference; and Profit From Your Idea. Stim regularly answers readers' intellectual property questions at his blog.

  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction

    • Intellectual Property Law: The Basics
    • Determining What Rights Apply to Your Work

    Part 1: Patent Law

    • Patent Law: Overview
    • Patent Law: What’s New Since the Last Edition?
    • Patent Law: Definitions
    • Patent Law: Forms
      • Patent Application Basics
      • Preparing a Design Patent Application

    Part 2: Copyright Law

    • Copyright Law: Overview
    • Copyright Law: What’s New Since the Last Edition?
    • Copyright Law: Definitions
    • Copyright Law: Forms
      • Preparing a Copyright Application
      • Preparing an Electronic (eCO) Copyright Application
      • Preparing a Traditional Print Copyright Application

    Part 3: Trademark Law

    • Trademark Law: Overview
    • Trademark Law: What’s New Since the Last Edition?
    • Trademark Law: Definitions
    • Trademark Law: Forms
      • Preparing a Federal Trademark Application
      • The Trademark Application: the TEAS System
      • Example of a TEAS Plus Application

    Part 4: Trade Secret Law

    • Trade Secret Law: Overview
    • Trade Secret Law: What’s New Since the Last Edition?
    • Trade Secret Law: Definitions
    • Trade Secret Law: Forms
      • Preparing a Nondisclosure Agreement


  • Sample Chapter
  • Introduction

    A photographer questions why an advertising agency can copy her photographs without permission. An inventor is disappointed to learn that he cannot stop a foreign manufacturer from making his patented invention. A woman named Tiffany doesn’t understand why she can’t name her vintage clothing and jewelry store Tiffany’s Trifles.

    Welcome to the world of intellectual property.

    Writers, inventors, and artists transform ideas into tangible property. When this property qualifies under the law for protection it’s known as intellectual property (or IP)—for example, patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Creators of IP are granted specific rights. The author of a book, for instance, can prevent others from copying it, and the owner of a patented invention can prevent others from making, using, or selling the device.

    After a time, these exclusive rights can be lost or taken from the owner and given to the public. For example, copyright protection has ended for Mark Twain, and anyone is free to copy his books Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The patent on the original Rollerblade invention has expired, and companies are now free to copy the device.

    But not all products of the mind can achieve protection under intellectual property law. Determining what can be protected used to be the exclusive domain of patent, copyright, and trademark lawyers. Unfortunately, few businesses, nonprofits, or educational institutions can afford to call an attorney with every question. And lately, there are a lot of questions. Globalization, digital content, artificial intelligence, and the internet have contributed to a greater-than-ever need for information about IP.

    Fortunately, intellectual property is not an inscrutable discipline. Anybody can understand the basics. This book is proof that IP law is not a mystery. For more than 27 years, engineers, scientists, business people, academics, and attorneys have used this book as a reference for understanding basic patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret principles. This helpful desk reference has evolved to include hundreds of definitions, statutes, forms, and bits of how-to information about protecting and preserving intellectual property.

    Protections vs. Affirmative Rights
    Attorneys and judges often use the term “affirmative rights” to describe the legal protections offered by copyrights, trade secrets, patents, and trademarks. That’s because the owners of intellectual property rights must affirmatively exercise their rights—that is, chase infringers—in order to benefit from the IP laws. If the owner doesn’t assert rights, there is no protection. Laypeople refer to IP ownership as a form of protection. For example, one might say, “My poem is protected by copyright.” Both references are acceptable, and they are used interchangeably throughout this book.

    Hopefully, it will make your job easier, your employer more secure, and your business more prosperous.

    Intellectual Property Law: The Basics

    Intellectual property laws, along with court decisions and regulations, establish rules for the following activities:

    • registration and administration of intellectual property
    • selling or licensing of intellectual property, and
    • resolving disputes between companies making or selling similar intellectual property products and services.

    Intellectual property laws don’t prevent someone from stepping on an owner’s rights. But the laws do give an owner the ammunition with which to take a trespasser to court. This is the most well-known benefit of owning intellectual property: The owner acquires exclusive rights and can file a lawsuit to stop others who use the property without authorization. If the intellectual property owner does not confront the person or company who has acted without permission, the illegal activity will likely continue.

    Determining What Rights Apply to Your Work

    Intellectual property law consists of several separate and overlapping legal disciplines, each with its own characteristics and terminology. This book is divided into four sections, each for a different type of intellectual property.

    If you are concerned about your creation, you’ll first need to know what form (or forms) of intellectual property protects it.

    • Patent law establishes three types of patents:
      • Utility patents (the most common) are awarded for new processes, machines, manufactures, compositions of matter, or new uses of any of the above. The utility patent owner has the exclusive right to make, use, and sell the invention for a limited term—it expires 20 years after the date the application was filed.
      • Design patents are awarded to new nonfunctional, ornamental, or aesthetic design elements of an invention or product. A design patent lasts 15 years from issuance if it was filed on or after May 13, 2015; if filed before that date, it lasts 14 years from issuance.
      • Plant patents are granted for new asexually reproducible plants (plants reproducible by grafting or cloning). A plant patent expires 20 years from the date the patent was filed.
    • Copyright law protects expressions of creative ideas such as songs, artwork, writing, films, software, architecture, and video games. Copyright law does not protect ideas and facts, only how those ideas and facts are expressed. Copyright protection lasts a long time, often more than 100 years.
    • Trademark law protects marketing signifiers such as the name of a product or service or the symbols, logos, shapes, designs, sounds, or smells used to identify it. This protection can last as long as the company continuously uses the trademark in commerce—for example, many trademarks, such as Coca-Cola and General Mills, have been protected for over a century.
    • Trade secret law commonly protects confidential designs, devices, processes, compositions, techniques, formulas, information, or recipes. A trade secret is any confidential information that gives a business a competitive advantage. Under trade secret law, the owner of this confidential information can prevent others from using it if it was obtained illegally. Trade secret protection lasts for as long as the business maintains the secret.
    Is It Primarily Functional or Aesthetic?
    Intellectual property rights are often divided between functional elements (protected by utility patents and trade secrets) and nonfunctional elements (protected by trademarks, copyrights, and design patents). Sometimes you can start your analysis of intellectual property protection by asking the question: “Does this creation accomplish a task or goal or is it done primarily to appeal to the senses or to provide information or entertainment?”
    Legal Basis of Intellectual Property Laws
    The sources of intellectual property laws vary according to the subject matter. Copyright and patent laws are derived from powers originating in the U.S. Constitution and are specifically and exclusively implemented by federal statutes. In all of these areas, court decisions provide essential principles governing the application of intellectual property laws. Trademark and trade secret laws originate primarily in federal and state statutes and are also derived from court decisions that apply principles developed by earlier courts as part of the common law.

    Forms of Intellectual Property: How They Overlap

    Sometimes, trade secret, copyright, patent, and trademark laws intersect for a particular product or service. Some common examples of this are as follows:

    • Trade secret and patent. It is possible to pursue a patent application while simultaneously maintaining the invention as a trade secret, at least for the first 18 months of the U.S. patent application process. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) regards applications as confidential until they are published. Unless the applicant files a Nonpublication Request (NPR) at the time of filing and doesn’t file for a patent outside the United States, the PTO will publish the application within 18 months of the filing date.
    • Copyright and trademark. It’s not uncommon for an item to be protected under both trademark and copyright law. For example, the expressive artwork in a package design might be protected by copyright, while the overall look and feel of the package might be protected as a form of trademark. Likewise, an advertising commercial might include some material covered by copyright (for example, a jingle) and other material covered by trademark (the product or company name). The difference here is that copyright protects the literal expression, while trademark protects whatever is used to designate the source of a product or service offered in the marketplace.
    • Patent, copyright, and trademark. Patent law can intersect with copyright and trademark law in the case of certain products. For example, the designer of a toy or jewelry can protect the device’s name or appearance (as a trademark), the design of the item (design patent), the appearance of any artwork or graphics (copyright), and the novel, nonobvious functionality of the device (utility patent).

    IP Around the World

    Most countries in the world have entered into intellectual property treaties that afford members mutual rights. This does not mean that anything protected in the United States will necessarily be protected abroad. However, intellectual property protected in America can achieve protection abroad under the standardized rules established by the various treaties. For example, the Madrid Protocol has standardized the process for obtaining trademark protection among member countries. Similarly, the Berne Convention establishes international copyright principles, and the Paris Convention and the Patent Cooperation Treaty offer harmonization for owners of patents. Trade secrets can receive international protection under GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

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