Intellectual Property: Who Owns It?

intellectual property

It is easy to determine who owns the physical property.  Whose name is on the mortgage, or who signed the lease for the car?  Intellectual property can be a bit more confusing. It is difficult to say who thought of an idea first unless there is a recorded instance of that idea.  This is why intellectual property law can be such a big deal.

What is intellectual property?

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO, intellectual property “refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce.”  There are many types of intellectual properties that are protected by law. These include patents, copyright, trademarks, industrial designs, geographical indicators, and trade secrets.

Who owns it?

Intellectual property is generally owned by the person who filed for it.  For example, a certain book or movie belongs to the person who owns the copyright for that piece of media.  A brand name is owned by the trademark holder, and an invention belongs to the person with the patent. 

It gets a little confusing when there is no clear owner of a certain idea.  For example, according to the common rights law in trademarking, whoever has been using the brand name owns it.  If someone else tries to purchase that same brand name, the case may go to court to figure out who the trademark should belong to.  This is why intellectual property law is important. Lawyers who specialize in this type of law help clients claim their own property rights.

When would I need an intellectual property attorney?

There are several different instances when you would want to get an attorney to help you with intellectual property law.  If you are filing for a patent, trademark, or copyright, a lawyer can help you sort through all the fine print. They can do a search in advance and make sure you aren’t applying for something that is already someone else’s intellectual property.  Lawyers can also help you fill out the paperwork correctly and increase your chances of getting the results you want. 

For example, if you are trying to get a patent for an invention, an attorney can help you determine if your creation is patentable.  Some things require patents, while others fall under the category of industrial designs and need to be filed for in a different way. Lawyers can explain all of this to you, so you don’t waste time and money applying for the wrong thing.

One reason you would definitely want to get a lawyer is if someone else is trying to steal or claim your intellectual property.  It is unlikely that you would be able to resolve a case like this on your own. Let’s say you are applying to own the trademark for a brand name, only to discover that someone else has been using the same name for their business.  This may be a case of common law rights, or it may not. An attorney could argue in court that you are the one who should have the trademark.

Where can I find intellectual property law legal help?

If you have questions about your intellectual property and the law, an attorney can help.  But how can you find the lawyer you are looking for?  Locate Legal Help makes it easy.  Simply enter the type of legal help you need and your zip code on their website.  After a few more questions specific to your case, Locate Legal Help will connect you with attorneys in your area that specialize in whatever you need.