Use Your Intellect
You just got a call from one of your top customers, Rinky Dinky Donut Company. Rinky Dinky asks you to produce a large number of donut boxes and bags for its coffee beans. Instead of putting the usual Rinky Dinky name and logo on the boxes, you are instructed to use the name and logo of Dunkin’ Donuts, and are provided with the required graphics and text. You assume Rinky Dinky is working on a collaboration with Dunkin’ Donuts, but fail to verify this. What you don’t know is that Rinky Dinky has no authorization to use Dunkin’ Donuts’ name or logo. You have now officially walked into an intellectual property minefield that could cost your company dearly. In fact, liability for trademark infringement is not limited to those who actually sell products with misappropriated trademarks. Liability can extend to middlemen who merely supply the products and companies that facilitate the infringement. And, damages (or amounts offenders may be liable to pay to intellectual property owners) can be hefty. Being forewarned about these concepts is being forearmed.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property consists of mental creations such as inventions, literary works, artistic works, names, symbols, designs and images that are used in commerce. There are four types of intellectual property: patents, copyrights, individuals’ publicity/privacy rights and trademarks.
Patents. A patent is the grant of a property right to an inventor, which gives the inventor a figurative monopoly on the invention for a certain number of years. Others are excluded from making, using, offering for sale or selling the invention in the United States or importing the invention to the United States for 20 years.
Copyrights. A copyright is a form of protection granted to authors of original works of authorship, including computer software, literary works, music and artistic works. The copyright holder has an exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted works. A copyright protects the form of expression; it does not protect the subject matter of the writing. Examples of copyrights include novels, artwork, computer software and information on websites.