In the past several years, there has been a significant advancement in the technology that our manufacturers use to test their products. Non-invasive testing makes use of the same technology as MRIs to scan the inside of products, but do you want your competitors to be able to scan your technology and to be able to reproduce it more rapidly than ever before? The idea of intellectual property has a long history — trade secrets are sometimes included in the definition — but if you feel that your ideas are being used without your permission, you may want to discuss your options with an intellectual property lawyer.
If you find yourself wondering what intellectual property is, you’re in good company. The field of intellectual property and IP law is complex, and there is a dearth of public education available. About 15 years ago, the college student who created Napster found himself up against copyright law: he lost his case due to America’s laws governing intellectual property and copyright. Basically, Napster was a peer-to-peer file sharing program that allowed people to download music files for free. One major rock band had a legitimate objection to their music being distributed without their being compensated: the case went to court, and the Napster brand dissolved.
Any time a musician or artist writes the lyrics to a song or invents a new melody, they can obtain a copyright. We may listen to their music or read their words without having to pay, but the right to share the music belongs to the artist who created it. Likewise, people who invent new ways of designing products or who invent new ways to manufacture those products can obtain patents or trademarks. The problem that American manufacturers are facing is that it is now easier than ever before for their competitors to produce prototypes after scanning their products. Trade secrets can be laid bare by new scanning technology, and patent lawsuits have increased almost sevenfold in the last two decades.
What an intellectual property lawyer can do is to help businesses navigate the complex world of patents, trademarks, and copyrights. There are more than 500,000 patent applications filed every year, and on average, a patent lasts 20 years from the date that it is filed. Copyrights on books actually last for 70 years after the author passes away, and although the amount of “fan fiction” on the internet has grown exponentially in the last decade, authors do not always enforce their copyrights.
For manufacturers, however, imitation could sink their entire business. Non-invasive scanning allows competitors to see proprietary information and to reproduce it if they so desire. Although certain trade secrets can be patented, there are other details of the manufacturing process that were always difficult to reproduce – until recently. As the demand for intellectual property lawyers and patent law specialists grows, authors and manufacturers alike need to make sure that they take the proper precautions to ensure that their inventions are used the way that they want them to be used. Intellectual property lawyers and patent lawyers can help manufacturers ensure that they retain control over their products and inventions.