Intellectual property law consists of a number of categories designed to protect the intellectual property of the author. These categories include the following:

The patent law protects inventions and processes, ornamental designs, and new varieties of plants. It provides the owner of the patent with the legal right to prevent others from using or reproducing the object covered by the patent for a specified period of time. Where a patent obtained by an individual builds on other patents, the individual must obtain permission from the owner(s) of the earlier patent(s) to exploit the new patent.

In the United States, patent law that protects inventions and processes are granted for a period of 20 years from the date the application was made, patent law that protects ornamental designs are granted for a period of 14 years, and patent law that protects the creation of new varieties of plants are granted for a period of 17 years. Once the patent on an invention or design has expired, anyone is free to make, use, or sell the invention or design.

A copyright protects original works of authorship and the rights of the author to solely control the reproduction, adaptation, public distribution, and performance of these original works. Copyrights can also be assigned to software and databases. The copyright law has two provisions that address uses of copyrighted material by educators, researchers, and librarians.

  1. Trade Secret law protects and maintains the confidentiality of proprietary technical or business-related information. However, the owner of the information needs to acquire resources to develop the information, which has to be of value to the business of the owner.
  2. The information cannot be apparent.

A trademark establishes the identity of an owner, vendor or manufacturer. This can be a name, a word, a symbol, a color, a sound, a product shape, a device, or any combination of these giving them a unique identity from those manufactured or sold by competitors.

A warranty is a contract that binds an organization to its product. There are two types of warranties:

  1. An implied warranty is a non-verbal, unwritten promise created by state law that is transferred from a manufacturer or a merchant to the customer. There are two types of implied warranties:
  • The implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is a commitment made by the merchant when the consumer relies on the advice of the merchant that the product is suited for a specific purpose.
  • The implied warranty of merchantability is the merchant’s or manufacturer’s promise that the product sold to the consumer is fit to be sold and will perform the functions that it is intended to perform.
  1. An express warranty is definitively given by the manufacturer or merchant to the customer when a sales transaction takes place. This type of warranty defines the offer to remedy any problems or deficiencies with the product.

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