What is Intellectual Property Nowadays, Anyway?
Updated: Apr 27
Copyrights, trademarks, patents… There are so many things that go under the umbrella term of “intellectual property”. While the concept of intellectual property has existed for several centuries, it has undergone numerous changes.
Navigating the web of intellectual property rights can be difficult in the Internet age. Therefore, we have taken it upon ourselves to make these concepts easier to understand for someone outside of legal circles.
In this article, we will explain what intellectual property is, outline most of the types, explain what exactly is under protection, and how using Honeygain helps maintain the law.
Why do intellectual property rights exist?
Intellectual property rights started out as “literary property”. Nowadays, literature might not be as popular but back in the 18th century, it had all the craze. People really wanted to get paid for what they write instead of have someone else taking all the money.
As you might imagine, writing a piece of literature that people want to read takes a lot of time and effort. Thus, authors sought to maintain the publishing rights of their works. After some 18th century legal cases, the concept of intellectual property was formed in light of these events.
Since then, the concept of intellectual property has been continually added to, updated, and clarified by numerous legal entities. Nowadays, many things fall under intellectual property rights:
A well-known type of intellectual property, patents exist as a way to protect new, unique, or useful inventions. Outside of novelty, inventions have to be considered “not obvious” and be industrially applicable.
Plant varieties. It may come as a surprise to some but plants can fall under intellectual property, as exclusive rights to use new varieties of plants commercially can be issued to their creator. Thus, they can be considered as a sub-section for patents.
Another well-known type of intellectual property. Unlike with other types of intellectual property, copyright protection is automatically applied for created work but it has to be documented. Usually, copyrights protect artistic or intellectual work (such as books, music, etc.). One interesting fact is that the information or ideas itself are not copyright protected: only the specific manner in which they are expressed is. Therefore, a visual artist could not copyright the paint, technique, or procedure used in the creation of a painting. Only the painting itself is considered copyrighted.
One interesting fact is that the information or ideas itself are not copyright protected: only the specific manner in which they are expressed is.
3. Industrial design right
This is mostly a design patent for shapes, color combinations, patterns, etc. Notably, industrial design rights only apply to the aesthetic (or visual beauty) part of an object. For example, Coca Cola holds a design patent for the shape of its classic glass bottle.
You’ve seen these. It’s a sign, image, or expression that identifies a specific brand. Nike has numerous logo trademarks – from the well-known curved-line design to logos like OBJ. Generally, you will find a ™ or ® symbol next to a trademarked expression. Sometimes, slogans (such as “Just Do It” by Nike) can be trademarked, too.
Trade dress. “Dress” does not mean fashion in this case! It’s a subsection of trademarks that protects visual appearance or packaging of a product, or the design of a building. Trade dress applications must include the same content as trademark applications. A famous example of a trade dress is the Goldfish crackers. Trade dress is distinct from industrial design rights even if it might seem to be the same thing at first. In Wal-Mart Stores v. Samara Brothers (2000), product design (that is not inherently distinctive) and packaging (which is inherently distinctive) were separated. Thus, trade dress rights protect the easily distinguishable part of a product.
5. Trade secrets
Generally, it’s a formula, recipe, process, instrument, etc., that has economical value to a business. Coca Cola’s recipe would be a classic example of a trade secret. Interestingly, while trade secrets are considered intellectual property, they are not protected by laws. Trade secrets are protected by keeping them, well, secret. If the secret needs to be disclosed to a specific person, companies usually sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that protects them in case the trade secret is leaked by the person in question.
However, since trade secrets are basically just information, it’s legal to use the same information and techniques if they were obtained through independent research.
While trade secrets are considered intellectual property, they are not protected by laws.
Of course, there are other types of intellectual property: due to legal differences between countries and unions, there can never be one all-encompassing list. A good example of a much rarer type of intellectual property is geographical indications. Expensive wines or cheeses often have geographical indications that are supposed to hint to the quality of the product.
Outside of moral implications of owning the fruits of one’s labor, intellectual property rights exist primarily as an economic incentive. For example, developing new medications for certain diseases cost exorbitant amounts of money, averaging from several to over ten million dollars. There would be little incentive for research if anyone was able to just take the newly-invented recipe, create their own medication, and instantly profit from the work of the company who invested in the research and development.
Guaranteeing a set amount of years of intellectual property protection for newly created medications create such an incentive. Companies might engage in research to get exclusive rights to produce the medication and, over the long term, turn a profit.
How Honeygain protects intellectual property rights
An unfortunate truth is that laws don’t dissuade absolutely everyone. Some individuals still attempt to profit from the intellectual property of others by selling lookalike products, abusing brand images, or using copyrighted material.
Finding and pursuing intellectual property infringers was different back in the day. Now, with the advent of the Internet, there are many more opportunities for ill-meaning individuals to profit from illegally using intellectual property.
One of the most common examples that nearly everyone has bumped into is branded sneakers that are “just like original” or “AAA quality”. These can sometimes be found on popular marketplaces or social media. Obviously, if these sneakers were legitimate, there would be no need to use keywords like “just like original”.
One of the most common examples that nearly everyone has bumped into is branded sneakers that are “just like original” or “AAA quality”.
Since intellectual property is part of civil law, governments generally do not conduct any research. It is up to the individuals and companies to collect evidence, raise a claim, and participate in the trial. Only the resolution is decided by a judge.
Numerous companies and teams of individuals are at least partly involved in protecting intellectual property rights. Just like in any legal process, collecting evidence of misconduct is of critical importance. Thus, a lot of intellectual property protection revolves around gathering everything that is needed to make a case against a company or individual.
Nowadays, most evidence is collected automatically. Businesses develop tools that can browse the Internet (websites, social media, marketplaces, etc.) and find suspicious listings or postings. Usually, they look for the previously mentioned keywords (e.g., “AAA quality”) and download the information stored in the listing.
Unfortunately, website owners do not enjoy allowing bots to run amok. They will often ban the IPs of any bots they suspect, regardless of their intentions. Thus, companies that attempt to collect evidence on possible intellectual property infringements often run into blocks.
Honeygain helps companies protect intellectual property rights by creating communication points that can help circumvent the blocks enacted by social media and e-commerce platforms. They can then continue collecting evidence.
Creating these communication points is critical to the effectiveness of intellectual property protection. By using Honeygain, you help create them yourself and aid in protecting companies and individuals from the misuse of their intellectual property.
The number of intellectual property infringements is on the rise due to the appearance of the Internet. Nowadays, there are much more avenues for malicious individuals who want to profit from the work of others.
Want to help protect intellectual property rights and earn money at the same time? Download Honeygain and start earning!
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