Good Afternoon, Hijim!
If I may begin by defining "intellectual property" so that we are on
the same wavelength: "1. A category of intangible rights protecting
rights protecting commercially valuable products of the human
intellect. The category comprises primarily trademark, copyright, and
patent rights, but also includes trade-secret rights, publicity
rights, moral rights, and rights against unfair competition. 2. A
commercially valuable product of the human intellect, in a concrete or
abstract form, such as a copyrightable work, a protectable trademark,
a patentable invention or a trade secret. The abbreviation is I.P.
Blacks Law Dictionary (7th Edition) at 813.
Protection of I.P. depends upon the nature of the material to be
protected. Lets then look at Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents
the big three of the I.P. world.
TRADEMARKS: Typically a word, phrase, logo, or other graphic symbol
used by a manufacturer or seller: (Blacks p. 1500). A service mark
is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and
distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.
Trademarks are registered in the United States at the United States
Patent and Trademark Office http://www.uspto.gov/
Their excellent site on Trademarks is a fantastic and exhaustive
source: http://www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm I would suggest to
you that a name for your process or program is subject to
registration as a mark. Not the actual code, but what ever
unforgettable name you attach to it.
COPYRIGHTS: Now the copyright office is maintained by the Library of
Congress. http://www.copyright.gov/ The basics as to what a copyright
is, what is protected and how, what is not, who may copyright, etc. is
neatly summarized at: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#wci
Copyright protection can be given to both the unique code that you
have developed as well as to manuals and other technical publications
that you produce. A copyright has a duration, generally, of the
authors life plus 70 years.
Copyright protection begins at creation. HOWEVER, Copyrights must be
registered so as to be able to sue someone for infringing on a
Copyright: In general, copyright registration is a legal formality
intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular
copyright. However, registration is not a condition of copyright
protection. Even though registration is not a requirement for
protection, the copyright law provides several inducements or
advantages to encourage copyright owners to make registration. Among
these advantages are the following . . . Before an infringement suit
may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U. S.
origin. . . If registration is made within 3 months after publication
of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages
and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court
actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is
available to the copyright owner.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has held
that a copyright for software did not make equipment using such
software a unique product. Virtual Maintenance v. Prime Computer, 957
F.2d 1318, 1329 (6th Cir. 1992).
PATENTS: As with Trademarks, Patents are issued by the Patent and
Trademark Office: http://www.uspto.gov/ The right conferred by the
patent grant is . . . the right to exclude others from making, using,
offering for sale, or selling the invention [read this, generally, as
a tangible thing] in the United States or importing the invention
into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use,
offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from
making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.
Berkeley has a nifty site:
Findlaw, as always, is useful:
And one more: http://www.brint.com/IntellP.htm
OTHER PROTECTIONS: Besides all of the registration options, there is
recourse for theft of your ideas through other areas of the law,
generally in Tort.
COUNSEL: Of course, the usual disclaimer applies here. This is an
unbelievably complex area of the law, with many pits for the unwary to
fall into. Homework on your part as to the law is highly advisable, as
there is a jargon all of its own. Then consider seeking qualified
counsel to protect your valuable investment.
SUMMARY: You may want to Trademark any unique marks, names, or logos
that describe your invention. The code itself is probably subject to
protection by Copyright.
I hope this answered your question. If not, I would be pleased as
punch to offer any clarification just hit the button and let me
Best to ya!