In the field of intellectual property law, the various facets thereof combine to offer protection to a person for the intellectual property developed or discovered by that person. A patent can protect an invention. A copyright can protect an author's works. A trademark can protect the use of a particular phrase or name, a design or combinations thereof, as applied to a product or a service. A trade secret can protect a particular item or process, which is special to an individual person or company. The law of unfair competition is similar to the law of injury or broken contracts.
Patents, trademarks and copyrights are protected and covered by federal law. Trade secrets and unfair competition are handled by state law. There is sometimes a federal/state overlap in trademarks. Some states, including Illinois, have their own trademark procedures for protecting names for goods or services used within the state. All these facets of the intellectual property law cooperate to provide the maximum protection for an idea, an invention, a work of art, a book or any other item of intellectual property.
Tupperware As An Example Of IP Protection
A typical example of that cooperation relates to TUPPERWARE. The term TUPPERWARE is a registered trademark of Dart Industries, Inc., of Deerfield, Illinois. The TUPPERWARE company has had its basic patent expire. Trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights combine to still provide protection for Dart Industries, Inc.
The name, specifically the trademark, is applied to such a good product that people still prefer a product bearing the TUPPERWARE trademark as opposed to a product bearing a competing mark. Clearly, the TUPPERWARE trademark is so prominent that people ask for that trademarked product. Within the TUPPERWARE factory with all their experience of manufacturing the products over the course of the years, undoubtedly several trade secrets to more efficiently and effectively produce the product have been developed. Thus, the TUPPERWARE company has used its patent to protect itself, until its trademark was promoted sufficiently to become well-known and valuable. Its trade secrets, probably developed during the patent term, provided production efficiency and effectively extended product protection.
As is clear from looking at the TUPPERWARE catalogs and similar promotional devices, copyright protection is applied to prohibit copying of those promotional devices. It can then be seen how one well-known company has developed and used intellectual property law to its maximum effect, even overlapping the protection of different fields of intellectual property protection.
Constitutional Basis For Safeguarding Intellectual Property
Each facet of the intellectual property law generally protects a different type of invention, work of art or intellectual property creation. Article I, Section 8, of the United States Constitution provides for protection of inventors and authors through patents and copyrights. A treaty plus action by the United States Congress under Commerce Clause of the Constitution provides for protection of trademarks.
Patents are codified for inventors under Section 35 of the United States Code (U.S.C.) to protect an idea of a certain class. Copyrights are codified for authors under Section 17 of the United States Code to protect the expression of an idea. Trademarks are provided under Chapter 15 of the United States Code to protect a word, more than one word or a design used to define goods or services.
The basic tenet of intellectual property law, especially patents and copyrights, is to encourage the free exchange of ideas. From a purely capitalistic standpoint, a person is ready to disclose or exchange an idea when compensation is available therefor. The patents and copyrights are designed to encourage a person to disclose an idea, while permitting that person to retain the right to some economic benefit therefrom. With this economic benefit, a person becomes more willing to disclose an original idea.
Thus, patents and copyrights obtained for specific periods of time provide exclusive rights for the developer with regard to that particular item. Within these rights, an inventor or author may develop a product capable of achieving a profit or commercial advantage. After the expiration of the particular time frame, the information becomes public property. Then anyone may use this property free of any charge to develop their own ideas.
Patents, Trademarks And The Exchange Of Ideas
As a general rule of thumb, once an idea is uttered, the idea is free to all. The patent and copyright laws provide exceptions to this rule, and encourage further disclosure of ideas, due to the protection provided. An unsolicited idea submitted by a person to a company or other idea user, even if it proves valuable and results in tremendous profits for the company, does not require the company to pay anything therefor. If, however, that particular person has a patent or other intellectual property protection, it is quite possible that the person may use that protection to collect money from the company.
While each branch of intellectual property law serves a specific function, it is possible to combine attributes of more than one branch thereof to maximize protection for an idea. Whatever branch thereof is used, it is clear that intellectual property law offers advantages both to the developer and to the consumer.
Getting Help From Knowledgeable Legal Counsel
At the Law Office of Mathew R. P. Perrone, Jr., we are dedicated to providing high-quality, thoughtful, attentive professional services to individuals and businesses concerning intellectual property matters. Contact us today at 847-915-4475 to schedule a free 20-minute consultation.