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Intellectual property

Intellectual property is a broad category of property (and the related rights) the law recognizes to enforce ownership of creative inventions—often said to be creations of the mind or of human intellect—including patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.

Intellectual property is sometimes referred to as intangible property or rights because it often exists in a person’s mind as an intangible creation of human innovation rather than in the traditional physical forms of real property (real estate) and personal property (personal belongings).

Despite often being created and protected in intangible form in the human mind, intellectual property is often converted to a more physical or tangible form—such as when a song is written on paper or in electronic format on a computer; when a company’s trademark is placed on its website or products; or when a patented process or design is embodied in a piece of machinery or equipment.

In Texas, as in other states, intellectual property laws are designed to protect the rights of creators and innovators by recognizing their ownership over their unique creations. These laws encompass patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Patents, administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), protect inventions and processes for a certain period, allowing the patent holder exclusive rights to use and sell the invention. Copyrights protect original works of authorship, such as literature, music, and art, for the life of the author plus 70 years, ensuring that creators can control how their work is used. Trademarks protect symbols, names, and slogans used to identify goods or services, and they can last indefinitely as long as they are in use and properly maintained. Trade secrets involve information that companies keep confidential to maintain a competitive edge. While these areas of intellectual property are governed primarily by federal law, Texas law also provides remedies for infringement and misappropriation, and Texas courts enforce these rights. Additionally, the Texas Secretary of State's office handles the registration of trademarks within the state. Intellectual property in Texas can be both an intangible creation and, when expressed or embodied in a tangible medium, a valuable piece of property with enforceable rights.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

Title 17, United States Code - Copyright Law
This federal statute is relevant because it governs copyright protection for authors of 'original works of authorship' including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works.

Title 17 of the United States Code provides protection for original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works protected include literary works, musical works, dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings, and architectural works. The law grants copyright owners exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and prepare derivative works based on their creation. Copyright protection is automatic upon creation of the work in a tangible form and lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years after their death, with variations for works made for hire and anonymous or pseudonymous works.

Title 35, United States Code - Patent Law
This statute is relevant as it establishes the laws governing patent rights, which protect inventions and discoveries.

Title 35 of the United States Code outlines the federal law of patents. It establishes the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and provides the legal framework for granting patents in the United States. The law defines what can be patented, including any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. To be patentable, inventions must be novel, non-obvious, and adequately described or enabled. The patent holder is granted the exclusive right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or importing it into the United States for a limited time, generally 20 years from the filing date of the patent application.

Title 15, United States Code, Chapter 22 - Trademarks
This statute is relevant because it provides for the registration, protection, and enforcement of trademarks, which are distinctive signs or symbols used by a person or company to identify and distinguish their goods or services from those of others.

Title 15, Chapter 22 of the United States Code, also known as the Lanham Act, governs trademarks, service marks, and unfair competition. It provides federal registration of trademarks and service marks, which serves as nationwide constructive notice of the registrant's claim of ownership of the mark. The law protects registered marks from being used by others in a way that is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive with respect to the source of goods or services. The owner of a federally registered mark may sue for infringement in federal court and may be entitled to damages, injunctions, and possibly attorney's fees. The Lanham Act also provides for the civil action against trademark dilution and false advertising.

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1832 - Theft of Trade Secrets
This statute is relevant as it criminalizes the theft or misappropriation of trade secrets, which are forms of intellectual property.

Title 18, Section 1832 of the United States Code is part of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, which makes the theft or misappropriation of a trade secret a federal crime. A trade secret is defined as all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information that the owner has taken reasonable measures to keep secret and that has independent economic value from not being generally known. The law prohibits the theft, copying, or reception of trade secrets without authorization and with the intent to benefit someone other than the owner. The penalties for violation can include fines and imprisonment, with increased penalties if the offense benefits a foreign government, instrumentality, or agent.