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Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights

Intellectual Property Awareness Service at Georgia Southern Libraries

Georgia Southern Libraries educates creators and consumers of intellectual property (IP). Multiple resources are available at Georgia Southern Libraries to foster intellectual property information literacy on copyrights, fair use, open educational resources, plagiarism awareness, scholarly communications, trademarks, patents, and more. Georgia Southern Libraries and its partners provide wide-ranging intellectual property awareness resources to support students, educators, and the greater community: everyone from inventors to musicians.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (IP) includes things such as inventions, literary, and artistic works or images created by the human mind. IPs are protected by patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. As a Patent & Trademark Resource Center (PTRC), Georgia Southern Libraries are able to assist you with any of your IP awareness needs.

Is It Yours, Mine, or Ours?

Besides creations of the human mind, intellectual property (IP) could be considered a return on one's investment to protect one's intellectual works. It is associated with one's legal ownership and exclusive rights to authorize reproduction of one's intellectual works. However, IP may also include original authorship or invention in relationship to the actual legal ownership. For example, an author or inventor could sell some or all of their IP rights to others. Or an author or inventor could be hired by an organization to create intellectual works, known as work-for-hire, where the rights belong to the hiring organization. In another scenario, the invention or intellectual work may be carried out by a researcher in a university, working either alone or with a team, and the rights belong to the university.

Types of Intellectual Properties

Intellectual Property Overview (Highlights)

  Copyright Trademark Patent Trade Secret
Law Source U.S. Copyright Act (Federal)
Title 17 U.S. Code
Lanham Act (Federal)
Title 15 U.S. Code; state statutes; and common law
U.S. Patent Act (Federal)
Title 35 U.S. Code
State statutes (Uniform Trade Secrets Act); common law
Subject Matter
Art, writings, and other forms of expression; not facts or ideas Words, symbols, logos, designs or slogans that identify and distinguish products or services Utility Patent: inventions
Design Patent: ornamental (non-functional) designs
Formula, device, pattern, program, technique, or process
Protection Standard Originality; authorship; fixation in tangible medium Distinctiveness; secondary meaning; use in commerce Novelty; non-obviousness; and utility (ornamentally for design patents; distinctiveness for plants) Commercial value; unknown or unavailable information; effort to maintain secret
Protection Scope 17 U.S. Code §106: rights of reproduction, distribution, performance, public display, and derivative works 15 U.S. Code §1051: rights in U.S.; likelihood of confusion; and §1125(a) false designation of origin
§43(a), false description, dilution
35 U.S. Code §154: right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention Defense against misappropriation: acquisition by improper means or disclosure without consent
Protection Duration Life of author plus 70 years Perpetual until abandonment or loss of distinctiveness or secondary meaning Utility/Plant: 20 years
Design: 15 years
Potentially forever until publicly disclosed
Rights of Others Fair use; compulsory licensing (music); independent creation Truthful communication; fair use and collateral use (commentary) Unless licensed, none Independent discovery; reverse engineering
Examples Harry Potter books, movies and music soundtrack recordings Coca-Cola name, distinctive logo and trade dress of bottle shape iPhone mobile device, both utility and design aspects Coca-Cola formula and KFC secret recipe

Chart source: John Schlipp