Having worked in intellectual property for nearly 20 years, I often take for granted that people have a working knowledge of the different types of IP rights. That misconception is frequently revealed when a friend or family member (with whom I’ve had many conversations about IP) asks, “didn’t you patent that company’s logo?” “Well, no,” I explain, “but, I did get it federally registered as a trademark.” Taking a step back, I realize that it can be quite confusing. So, this article is meant to introduce the four main types of intellectual property and how they apply to the wine industry.
Patents Protect Ideas – sort of
Most people have a general understanding that a patent protects an “invention” or an idea. In a very general sense, that’s true. But, even though the Congressional authority to grant patent rights comes directly from the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8), exactly what is patentable is the subject of tremendous confusion among the U.S. population, examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, lawyers, and even judges; sometimes requiring clarification from the U.S. Supreme Court. The purpose behind the grant of a patent is to encourage innovation by granting exclusive rights to one’s discoveries for a limited time. In other words, it gives the patent holder a short-term (20 years from the date of filing) monopoly on his invention. Generally, new machines, chemicals, electronics, methods of production, and in some cases, methods of doing business, are eligible for patent protection
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