Is intellectual property covered by common law?

On Behalf of | Dec 7, 2021 | Business and Commercial Law |

As some of the most valuable assets of a company, intellectual property and branding are very important to a business. Residents of New York City and other nearby areas may want to learn more about whether intellectual property, or IP, is covered by common law. Understanding your rights as it pertains to your brand is crucial when building your company.

What is intellectual property?

Four segments constitute intellectual property. They are the following areas:

• Copyrights
• Patents
• Trademarks
• Trade secrets

What is common law?

Unwritten, these laws have a determination according to previous legal cases. With trademarks, for example, the business that is first to use a trademark receives its rights. When a reference to official law is missing, common law may come into play.

What IP has coverage by common law?

The only intellectual property that utilizes common law is the trademark. However, it pertains only to a geographic area. The business that uses the trademark first may use it in their geographic area, such as “Joe’s Diner” in Los Angeles. It would not apply to “Joe’s Diner” in Minnesota or Florida.

What must a business owner do regarding a trademark?

A registered trademark might infringe on your use of it by common law. You must enforce your rights through a search of federal trademarks, state trademarks, and common law trademarks, such as business directories, website domains, etc.

Some other areas must receive protection

Since trademarks are the only IP that receives protection through common law, patents and copyrights should receive registration through business law. Patents expire after 20 years, and some may receive an extension. Copyright has a base on the year of publication and enters the public domain 70 years after the death of its creator.

Intellectual property is important to a business and its success. Knowing about what is common law and what needs registration is critical when it involves branding.