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Intellectual Property - Napster And Intellectual Property, Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks, Other Forms Of Intellectual Property, Developments

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Intangible rights protecting the products of human intelligence and creation, such as copyrightable works, patented inventions, TRADEMARKS, and trade secrets. Although largely governed by federal law, state law also governs some aspects of intellectual property.

Intellectual property describes a wide variety of property created by musicians, authors, artists, and inventors. The law of intellectual property typically encompasses the areas of COPYRIGHT, PATENTS, and trademark law. It is intended largely to encourage the development of art, science, and information by granting certain property rights to all artists, which include inventors in the arts and the sciences. These rights allow artists to protect themselves from infringement, or the unauthorized use and misuse of their creations. Trademarks and service marks protect distinguishing features (such as names or package designs) that are associated with particular products or services and that indicate commercial source.

Copyright laws have roots in eighteenth-century ENGLISH LAW. Comprehensive patent laws can be traced to seventeenth-century England, and they have been a part of U.S. law since the colonial period. The copyright and patent concepts were both included in the U.S. Constitution. Under Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution, "The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." The first TRADEMARK LAWS were passed by Congress in the late nineteenth century, and they derive their constitutional authority from the COMMERCE CLAUSE.

The bulk of intellectual PROPERTY LAW is contained in federal statutes. Copyrights are protected by the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C.A. §§ 101 et seq. [1994]); patents are covered in the Patent Act (35 U.S.C.A. §§ 101 et seq. [1994]), and trademark protection is provided by the LANHAM ACT (also known as the Trademark Act) (15 U.S.C.A. §§ 1501 et seq. [1994]).

Intellectual property laws give owners the exclusive right to profit from a work for a particular limited period. For copyrighted material, the exclusive right lasts for 70 years beyond the death of the author. The length of the right can vary for patents, but in most cases it lasts for 20 years. Trademark rights are exclusive for ten years and can be continually renewed for subsequent ten-year periods.

Intellectual property laws do not fall in the category of CRIMINAL LAW, per se. Some copyright laws authorize criminal penalties, but by and large, the body of intellectual property law is concerned with prevention and compensation, both of which are civil matters. This means that the owner, not the government, is responsible for enforcement.

Intellectual property laws provide owners with the power to enforce their property rights in civil court. They provide for damages when unauthorized use or misuse has occurred. They also provide for injunctions, or court orders, to prevent unauthorized use or misuse.

The property protected by copyright laws must be fixed in a tangible form. For example, a musician may not claim copyright protection for a melody unless it has been written down or somehow actualized and affixed with a recognizable notation or recorded. A formula or device may not receive patent protection unless it has been presented in whole to the U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE; even then, it must satisfy several tests in order to qualify. A symbol may not receive trademark protection unless it has been placed on goods or used in connection with services.

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