Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Intellectual Property Law

23 February 2016
 Categories: , Blog


Intellectual property usually refers to a person's ideas as expressed in their writing, artwork, music, and other creations. There are laws in place for protecting the person who created those things as their owner, even though things like a story or song are not tangible products like a car or home. These laws give the owner the right to control the use of their creation, but note that intellectual property law is still a bit different than other areas of law. Consider a few commonly-asked questions about intellectual property and the laws surrounding it, and then discuss this matter with an attorney if you have work you want to protect.

1. If a book or other work is out of print, can someone then use it as they wish?

Note that intellectual property law, including copyright protection, isn't granted just to a work that is currently earning money for the owner or creator. A copyright will extend to a certain number of years and the copyright owner has rights to decide on how that work will be used, if produced and sold at all. A copyright owner may allow a book to go out of print or may stop selling certain art pieces, but this doesn't mean that the work can now be used or copied by just anyone. Parking a car in a garage for the winter doesn't mean that anyone can take it and drive it; in the same way, a copyright holder doesn't need to be actually using their material to still own the rights that dictate its use.

2. Can a work be covered under more than one type of intellectual law?

Very often, it's a good idea to have your work covered by more than one type of intellectual property law. For example, you might patent the formula for a new pharmaceutical product and then also trademark the overall look of the pill form and register the name of the medication. This ensures that you have the most protection from those who would copy your product in any number of ways.

3. How can work be quoted or otherwise used if it's covered by intellectual law?

Note that most countries provide for what is called "fair use" of any idea or creation, meaning that you are allowed to quote a small part of a book when creating a term paper that includes that work, or you might be able to photograph a product and use that photograph since you're the one who took the picture. These laws will vary in their scope according to each country and every type of use, so discuss the subject with an intellectual law attorney to ensure your rights are protected.