US Law — IP


I am not an attorney. None of this constitutes competent legal advice. None of it.

The US Legal System

  • Criminal vs. Civil law

  • Trials and settlements

  • The appeals process

  • Law, jurisdiction and precedent

IP: A collection of bits

  • Copyright
  • Patent
  • Trademark
  • Trade Secret


  • Covers an expression of a creative work

  • Everything since about 1930

  • Currently obtained by...creating

  • Gives right to

    • Reproduce
    • Prepare derivative works
    • Distribute copies
    • Perform, Display

Enforced by civil suit (mostly)

(Utility) Patents

  • Covers a novel, useful idea

  • Last 20 years

  • Application process through USPTO

  • Right to “practice” idea

  • Enforced by civil suit


  • Covers a distinguishing mark

  • Last as long as in trade use

  • Application through USPTO

  • Right to use mark (c.f. Lanham Act)

  • Enforced by civil suit

Trade Secrets

  • Covers a “secret" (probably even if otherwise not protectable)

  • Created by not disclosing

  • Last as long as the secret stays secret

  • Right to prevent employees etc from disclosing the secret

  • Enforced by civil suit (mostly)

Contracts and Licenses

  • A contract is an agreement between two parties to perform any (legal) exchange

  • A license is a contract in which one party grants the other the ability to exercise rights (usually under IP law)


  • It is possible to learn enough about the law to function day-to-day under normal circumstances

  • For any abnormal circumstance, you need to consult an attorney

  • This will not be cheap, unless it's free — it is nonetheless usually worth it

Last modified: Monday, 6 July 2020, 12:13 AM