Primer: Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents

Around 500 BCE the government in Sybaris, the ancient city of Magna Graecia, started granting a one-year patent to any citizen for any “new refinement in luxury.”

The Greeks, contributors of so many advances in the arts, philosophy, science, and government were the first who thought about and implemented protection for creators, unsuspected initiators of the intellectual property field.

This seemed appropriate for the city which was recognized by its refinement and hedonism, to the extent that “sybarite” and “sybaritic” have become words for opulent luxury and pleasure-seeking.

Creations and inventions bring refinement and sophistication to our lives.

Since then, the protection for the intellectual property of creators has evolved to the complex, mostly internet-aided system we nowadays enjoy but the intent remains the same as in ancient Greece: to protect the rights of inventors, artists, and merchants and reward creativity while promoting the exchange of ideas and products.

There are 4 basic intellectual property types in the legal system:

1.-Copyrights

2.-Trademarks

3.-Patents

4.-Trade secrets

Copyrights refer to a legal right, given to an originator to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and/or to authorize others to do the same, for a limited time and defined conditions.  It involves the whole artistic creation such an article, a book, a film, a painting or any other work of art. It typically last a long time, the life of the creator plus about 75 years depending on the type of work and country of creation.

Trademarks relate to symbols such as a word, or words or logos, established by use as representing a company or product. Examples of these are companies, restaurants names, product logos, etc.

Patents are licenses given by a government conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention. Patents are more technical documents and in the USA the filing of a patent is relatively costly.

A trade secret is a formula, a process, design, pattern, commercial method, or compilation of information not known or reasonably ascertainable by others by which a business can obtain competitive advantage against competitors. Examples are the formulas for coca-cola, secret recipes, etc.

We will get more in depth on these and related intellectual property topics, so, stay tuned!

Marcos E. Garciaacosta is an intellectual property and business attorney working in the USA with global experience. He can protect intellectual property in many jurisdictions including Mexico and the European Union. Please call us for a consultation at (480) 324-6378.

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