Wheels of Justice
Patents, trademarks, inventions and copyrights
I receive many questions about intellectual property from drivers. Intellectual property law traditionally includes the areas of copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets. Intellectual property actually refers to the ideas, discoveries and inventions created by people.
Let me explain the differences between the different branches of intellectual property law. Copyright law governs the author’s or publisher’s right to control the use and reproduction of their original works, such as songs, plays or books. These legal protections are provided by the U.S. Code Title 17 to the authors of “original works of authorship” of both published and unpublished works. The Copy-right Act of 1976, Section 106, gives the owner of a copyright the authority to authorize others to do the following: to reproduce the work in copies; to prepare derivative works based upon the work; to distribute copies of the work to the public by sale, rental, lease, lending or other transfer of ownership; to perform the work publicly; to display the work publicly.
Patents are exclusive rights officially granted by the government to an inventor to make or sell their invention, such as a light bulb or jet engine.
Trademarks are a name or symbol used to show that a product is made by a particular company and legally registered, so that no other company or manufacturer can use that name or symbol, such as Drivers Legal Plan® or Cadillac®.
Trade Secrets are a company’s business secrets; they refer to a secret formula or technique that is used to make a product, known only to the company that makes it, such as what ingredients are used in making Coca Cola®. Failure to protect the secrets will result in the loss of the protections offered by the government.
I’m not an intellectual property lawyer, so this information is obviously very basic. Intellectual property law is a vast, complex and rapidly changing area of law, due to technology. Seek out a true intellectual property lawyer to answer any questions you may have concerning patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets or existing law regarding communications, the Internet or computers.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to the nation’s commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.