Friday, January 16, 2009


It occurred to us that a good way to start the new year would be to provide a brief overview of intellectual property and entertainment law.

Intellectual property law has been described as the law pertaining to products of the intellect such as inventions (patents), creative content (copyrights), brand names (trademarks), and secret formulas and processes (trade secrets). A patent is a grant made by a government that confers upon the creator or owner of an invention the sole right to make, use, and sell that invention for a set period of time. There are three main types of patents: utility, design and plant. A copyright is the legal right to control the duplication, distribution display, performance and adaptation of an "original work of authorship" such as a song, book, screenplay, poster, t-shirt design, work of art or computer program. A trademark is a word or words, logo, sound, smell, color or product configuration – or any combination of them – that identifies and distinguishes one product or service from another. Examples of trademarks include EXXON, KODAK, YAHOO, GOOGLE, the Nike “swoosh” design, the color and shape of the Perrier water bottle, and the sound of the Yahoo yodel. A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, or compilation of information which is not generally known and which is subject to reasonable efforts to keep it secret and which provides the trade secret owner with an economic advantage over competitors. Examples of trade secrets are secret customer lists, the formula for Coca-Cola and KFC’s 11 secret herbs and spices.

Entertainment law is the law as it applies to everything from music to television to film to theatre to fine arts . It requires a combined knowledge of the entertainment business, contracts and intellectual property. It can involve everything from representing singers, songwriters and musicians to representing record labels, motion picture studios, television production companies, creators and producers of content for the Internet and mobile phones, and actors, actresses and directors. The crossover between intellectual property law and entertainment law occurs in many different circumstances. Examples include registering a band name as a trademark; registering the copyright in a film, tv show, screenplay, or song; obtaining a patent for the combination of mounting a video camera on a motion picture camera so that the director can watch the scenes being shot in real time; and treating as a trade secret the source, location and formulation of unusual and unique guitar strings that produce an extraordinary sound because they are treated with a special coating.

Stay tuned for future posts which will discuss interesting trends and developments in both intellectual property and entertainment law.

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