Intellectual Property Law


Intellectual Property Law

Modern Intellectual Property

Modern American Intellectual Property law finds its origins in the Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution and has developed through several major acts of congress. First‚ Patent Law is governed by Title 35 of the United States Code which codified the requirements for patentability and established a cause of action for patent infringement. Title 35 also established the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)‚ an agency that issues patents and registers trademarks. While the Registration of Trademarks is determined by the USPTO‚ Trademark Law is governed largely by the Lanham Act which established a cause of action for Trademark Infringement and Trademark Dilution. The Copyright Act of 1976 preempted the mass of varied state laws and established federal guidelines for copyright protection. Finally‚ while there has been no federal act codifying Trade Secret protection‚ several states‚ including California‚ have adopted the Uniform Trade Secret Act (UTSA) which provides protection to those who use reasonable means to maintain the secrecy of their trade secrets.

Origin of Intellectual Property Law

While the term “Intellectual Property” did not become widely used until the mid-19th century‚ the concept of intellectual property law‚ notably patent and copyright law‚ existed long before. Some of the earliest examples of intellectual property law are cases from medieval Ireland and Britain involving the rights to copy books. Before the invention of the printing press‚ a book could only be copied by hand. Because this was a lengthy and inaccurate process‚ the owners of these early books‚ typically the church‚ restricted access for copying by scribes. However‚ with the invention of the printing press‚ copying a book quickly and accurately became possible. The printing press also allowed the written word to be sold to the masses‚ creating a new market for commercial exploitation of printed material. This newly created market for the printed word led to early forms of copyright protection and the first copyright statute in the early 18th century.

The concept of patent law also existed before it was officially enacted into law. There are references in Ancient Greece to the issuance of patents for new discoveries. In addition‚ the British government had a system of patent registration in place as early as the 14th century. These “Letters Patents” granted the inventor a monopoly on his discovery for a set period of time‚ often 20 years. While no official patent statute was enacted until the 15th century‚ the concept of patent protection and the ability to monopolize an invention is thousands of years old.

Early Intellectual Property Statutes

Possibly the world’s first intellectual property statute was a system of patent registration enacted in Venice in 1474. This early patent law required inventors who had reduced an invention to practice to notify the government of their discovery. Once the government was notified‚ the inventor would be protected from patent infringement for the statutory period of ten years. The first American patent was granted in 1641 in Massachusetts to Samuel Winslow for a process for salt making.

In 1710‚ the Kingdom of Great Britain enacted the world’s first copyright statute‚ The Statute of Anne. The Statute of Anne granted the exclusive right to copy a book to the author or publisher. The language used in the operative title of the Statute of Anne (“An act for the Encouragement of Learning by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies.”) is similar to that of our own Constitution’s Copyright Clause. Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution‚ known as the Copyright Clause‚ vests power in Congress to act “To Promote the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts‚ by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

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