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Practice Definitions  | Copyrights


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Copyrights, Patents and Trademarks and are areas that fall under intellectual property law because they are all considered intellectual property. (See Intellectual Property for more information.) In addition to there being lawyers that specialize in the broad intellectual property law area, there are also attorneys that specifically deal with patents, trademarks and copyrights.

These attorneys can help you with legal issues surrounding the rights of ownership of patents, trademarks and copyrights; the application or registration of patents, trademarks and copyrights; licensing and transferring of rights; and the legal or illegal use of any of this intellectual property. The following are general descriptions of patents, trademarks and copyrights:

A Copyright is protection granted to authors of original authorship such as literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, and computer software, as well as performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television programs. Example: The creators of your favorite music CD, movie, or computer game have a copyright on their work. Copyrights last for the life of an author plus 50 years.

A patent is the grant of right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing an invention or discovery, including new and improved products and processes. Patents can be registered in foreign countries, last for 20 years and are renewable. But, if the patent expires, the exclusive rights to make, use, sell or import the invention or discovery is lost.

A trademark can be a logo, name, symbol, or device used to differentiate a product or service of one trader (or commercial entity) from that of another-brand identity. Example: McDonalds' golden arches. Trademark protection lasts for 10 years after registration, and is renewable.
Should I hire a lawyer?
Because patents, trademarks and copyrights all fall under the broad area of intellectual property law, if you plan on obtaining a patent, trademark or copyright it is is in your best interest to consult with a qualified lawyer to help you properly file for protection of your intellectual property. If you plan on licensing someone else's copyright, trademark, patent or other form of intellectual property, an attorney can assure that everyone's legal rights are protected under intellectual property law. Use the State Lawyers Directory to find a lawyer that's right for you and your situation.
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