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Intellectual Property


Black’s Law Dictionary defines intellectual property as “a category of intangible rights protecting commercially valuable products of the human intellect.”  Generally speaking, the most common intellectual property rights involve trademarks, patents, copyrights and trade secrets.  Information regarding each of these categories can be found below.   

Intellectual property rights are a tremendously important part of the modern business and educational worlds.  In fact, the university is both an owner of numerous intellectual property rights and is also a licensee of many third-parties’ rights. 

Intellectual property rights are very valuable to their owners because they derive license fees from their usage.  Moreover, federal and state law provide intellectual property owners with powerful legal tools to penalize unauthorized use of their intellectual property, including the possibility of treble damages and recoupment of attorneys’ fees.

 Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks at the University

Patents

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a patent is an “exclusive right to make, use, or sell an invention for a specified period . . . granted by the federal government to the inventor if the device or process is novel, useful, and non-obvious.”  Essentially, a patent gives the inventor a monopoly over the use and sale of the invention for 20 years.

The authority for the federal government to grant patents is found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution which reads: “Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”  Pursuant to this grant of authority, Congress established the patent laws for the country, and it created the United States Patent and Trademark Office (the “USPTO”) which is responsible for issuing patents.  For general information regarding patents and the patenting process, please visit the USPTO’s website at www.uspto.gov.                

Research performed at the university may result in a patentable invention.  The university claims all rights to discoveries or inventions, including associated patents, resulting from research or investigation conducted in any facility of the university or financed by the university.  However, the university wants to encourage the production of patentable inventions, so it pays the inventor a sizeable portion of the net royalties generated by the patent. 

Copyrights

Black’s Law Dictionary defines intellectual property as “a category of intangible rights protecting commercially valuable products of the human intellect.” Generally speaking, the most common intellectual property rights involve trademarks, patents, copyrights and trade secrets. Information regarding each of these categories can be found below.

Intellectual property rights are a tremendously important part of the modern business and educational worlds. In fact, the university is both an owner of numerous intellectual property rights and is also a licensee of many third-parties’ rights.

Intellectual property rights are very valuable to their owners because they derive license fees from their usage. Moreover, federal and state law provide intellectual property owners with powerful legal tools to penalize unauthorized use of their intellectual property, including the possibility of treble damages and recoupment of attorneys’ fees.

Accordingly, it is very important that the university properly use the intellectual property rights of third-parties and that the university protect its own intellectual property.
Copyright

The U.S. Copyright Office provides the following definition of a copyright:

A Copyright is “a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
In the case of sound recordings*, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

Copyright is most commonly associated with the production of written works such as books, articles, etc. However, copyright protection applies to many different types of creative works such as recorded music, photographs, artwork, etc.

Copyright protection is created instantaneously when a work is fixed in a tangible medium. Prior to the time that it is fixed in a tangible medium, copyright protection does not apply. In other words, the idea from which a work is created is not protected, but the actual work is protected.

Even though the copyright laws provide protection from the instant a work is created, it is often helpful to have a work filed with the United States Copyright Office which provides some additional protections to the author/artist to prevent infringement.

Copyright has a myriad of impacts across the University. For example, everything from the use of copyrighted materials in classes, to the books in the library, to the artwork in the museum, to the use of pictures of campus, all have copyright implications.

Generally, the university recognizes that a faculty member, staff member, or student owns his/her own work unless (1) the work was created pursuant to an external grant or contract, or specified in the terms of a gift, under which the copyrightable material was produced, or (2) if the work was created in the course of performing an explicit university assignment or commission to create such a work.

Copyright law can be very confusing due to the fact that there are numerous exceptions to copyright which are heavily fact-specific, such as the “fair use” exception. Moreover, people are often confused by the fact that a person may purchase an original work, but the copyright ownership still resides with the original author/artist. In this situation, each party only has certain rights with regard to the work. Accordingly, because of the complexity of these matters, please call our office to discuss any copyright concerns that you may have.

For further information regarding copyright, please refer to the following websites:

www.copyright.gov

http://copyright.lib.utexas.edu


A site about expiration of copyright can be found at: http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm

The University System of Georgia maintains a web site to help you determine what is and is not “fair use” in using copyrighted material.  It can be found at:  http://www.usg.edu/copyright/

Trademarks

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicates that a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.  Similarly, a service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. 

In describing a trademark, Black’s Law Dictionary reads:  “[t]he main purpose of a trademark is to guarantee a product’s genuineness.  In effect, the trademark is the commercial substitute for one’s signature.” 

The university uses numerous trademarks to represent the university, including, for example, the Bobcat face and paw.  However, a trademark is not necessarily just a symbol; it can also be certain words.  The university also has numerous word trademarks, including, for example, the words “Georgia College” and “GC” among others.

The university licenses its trademarks to certain third-parties for the production and sale of  goods and services (e.g., sweatshirts, school supplies, sporting equipment, video games, etc.)  In exchange, the university receives license fees based upon the sale of these goods and services.  These license fees are used to support the University. 

The university aggressively protects its trademarks against infringement.  The university regularly sends cease and desist letters to parties that are using the university’s marks without permission.  Moreover, when necessary, the university has brought lawsuits and seized the goods of infringing parties.

For general information regarding trademarks, please refer to the following websites: 

www.uspto.gov

 

 

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