Intellectual Property typically refers to patents, copyrights, trade secrets and trademarks that are used to protect the innovative efforts of an organization. Patents protect certain novel, useful and non-obvious inventions. Copyright protect particular expressions of an idea, though not the idea itself. Trade secrets protect information that has value by virtue of not being generally known of readily ascertainable by others. Trademarks protect certain goodwill associated with the organization's goods and services.
Computer-related technologies, such as the Internet, have posed new challenges for intellectual property law. Legislation and court decisions impacting patents, copyrights, trade secrets and trademarks have adapted intellectual property law to address new issues brought about by such emerging technologies. As the pace of technological change continues to increase, intellectual property law will need to keep up. Accordingly, the balance struck by intellectual property laws today will likely be set askew by technological changes in the future. Engineers need to consider not only the law as it exists today, but also how it might change in the future. Likewise, lawyers and judges need to consider legal issues not only in view of the current state of the art in technology, but also with an eye to technologies yet to come.
Intellectual property licensing is an important issue facing all technology companies. Before entering into license agreements a number of issues need to be addressed, including invention ownership, obtaining and identifying licensable subject matter, and developing a licensing strategy. There are a number of important provisions that are included in most intellectual property license agreements. These provisions include definitions, the license grant, consideration, audit rights confidentiality, warranties, indemnification, and limitation of liability. Special licensing considerations exist relative to each type of intellectual property, and when the other party is a foreign company or a university.
This paper is intended to provide background information for engineers (with as little pain and as few acronyms as possible) about intellectual property litigation.
Since the article is written by lawyers, "warranty disclaimers" are required at the beginning. The thoughts presented below are offered as general comments and advice. Application to any given circumstances varies. Consequently, if in trouble, you should have and defer to your own counsel (and, by no means, should you cite this article to them; they will resent it). Finally, the "vast seamless web we call the law" is, in many cases, a confused, self-contradictory, jumbled mess. Each rule has exceptions, which themselves have exceptions. The material below is intended to be accurate but is also, as a practical necessity, incomplete.
A challenge facing today's high-tech companies is generating, managing and leveraging intellectual property (IP) in a manner that optimizes its value. This endeavor requires a well-defined IP strategy. While there are numerous possible IP strategies a company can adopt, there are a relatively small number of fundamental considerations and devices that go into formulating and executing a particular IP strategy. An understanding of these considerations and devices can allow scientists, technicians, engineers, managers and executives at high-tech companies to begin the process of forming an IP strategy that suits their company's needs.
Companies make investments of time and money in order to develop new products, or improve existing products. They make similar investments in intellectual capitol. such investments can lead to increased revenue and shareholder value as well. Companies must bring a disciplined approach to intellectual property management to achieve the best return on the creation of intellectual capitol.