Copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property rights

My recently released eBook, Key Provisions in Video Game Publishing Agreements contains a lengthy discussion of intellectual property rights and how publishing agreements might address them. This post includes some samples of that section of the book, and some additional discussion. For more in depth discussion of these rights, get the FREE eBook now!

What is “IP”? The term “IP” is usually used as a shorthand to describe all of the plethora of various intellectual property rights and titles in a specific product or product concept that each have their own subtlety.

Copyright. A copyright protects a creative expression that is fixed in a tangible medium. Huh? Basically, copyright protects any creative work that has been drawn, recorded, written down, etc., even if only digitally. In the United States and in other jurisdictions, copyright protections apply the instant the creative work is fixed, whether or not it is ever published or a copyright application registered with any government authority (though registration has benefits and may be appropriate to consider).

A copyright can protect literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. This includes movies, songs, poetry, prose, software and architecture. Regardless of the medium, the creator of a copyrightable work is often called the “author.”  Read More.

Trademark. A trademark, by contrast to a copyright, is a word or phrase or other symbol that establishes the source of goods. …. Trademark rights arise initially from actual use of the mark in commerce. … Federal registration provides notice to the public of the holder’s claim to the mark, a legal presumption of ownership throughout the United States, and the exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the goods or services in the registration.

…Not all names or logos can be registered. They aren’t even all capable of being marks. Read More.

Patents: Patents are a property right in an invention. The right is for a limited duration, and is granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The application for a patent requires extensive preparation and includes a full disclosure of the invention and a justification that the invention is novel and should be protected. Patents can protect machines, manufactured articles, processes, a compositions of matter. Read More.

Trade Secret: Literally anything that gives a business a competitive edge can be a trade secret. To be considered a trade secret, the holder of the secret must take steps to prevent its disclosure. That is really it. Trade secrets could be unique techniques or unreleased development plans. They could be customer lists, sales methods, distribution processes, manufacturing processes, advertising techniques, etc. Read More.

Moral Rights: Moral rights are rights in creative works beyond those provided by copyright. In the United States, these rights exist only in certain visual arts. In Europe and elsewhere, they are much more broad. Moral rights remain with the creator, and cannot be transferred. Only the death of the creator eliminates moral rights. Read More.

Not an IP right: Publicity

Publicity Rights: The right of publicity is an extension of the more general right of privacy. The extent of the right varies from state to state, but in general it protects the right of an individual person to control commercial use of his or her name or likeness. Read More.

Brandon J. Huffman

Brandon is the founder of Odin Law and Media. His law practice focuses on digital and interactive media, entertainment, internet related issues and crisis communication. He serves as general counsel to the International Game Developers Association and is an active member of many bar associations and community organizations. He can be reached at brandon at odin law dot com.

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