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Describe the principal forms of protection for intellectual assets.
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Business and Its Environment
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The principal forms of protection for intellectual assets are patents, copyright, trade secrets, and trademarks.
Patent: A patent may be granted for an invention of any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. A patent establishes a property right that allows the holder to exclude others from using the invention; that is, a patent grants a monopoly to the inventor. Patents are also granted for designs and for plants as well as for business methods. The principal type of patent is a utility patent, which has a duration of 20 years beginning with the filing of the patent application with the Patent and Trademark Office.
Copyright: Works of original expression may receive a copyright allowing the recipient to restrict use, reproduction, and distribution of the work. A copyright can be claimed even without a filing with the government. The issue of what may be copyrighted has required both legislation and court interpretation.
Trade secrets: A trade secret is almost anything that is unique and of value or potential value to a company. This includes process information, operating methods, programs, and business plans. To receive protection the information must be adequately protected by the company on a continual basis. Trade secret protection can be perpetual, and the secrets do not have to be registered. Remedies for violations of trade secrets include injunctions and compensatory damages. Trade secret law has been used to prohibit employees who move from one company to another to take along information from their former employer.
Trademarks: A trademark provides social and private value. The social value results from reducing search costs for consumers by allowing branding of products. Branding can also support a reputation for quality, uniformity, or service. Remedies for infringement can take the form of injunctions and compensatory damages. The requirement for a trademark is distinctiveness.
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