Intellectual Property Laws
Intellectual Property laws are certain set of rules that help you prove ownership and restrict unauthorized use of your creations. This aids in the fights against piracy, abuse and illegal use of your creations.
These laws apply to software, artwork, music, literary works, etc. and are used by almost everyone.
You must have noticed the standard "Copyright ©1996-200 Copyright Owner. All Rights Reserved" tag on software and other stuff. This is the notice that yells out to everyone - keep away!
But what exactly are copyrights?
Copyrights are the "thing" that you need most. Suppose you just finished a cool application, slap on the text somewhere saying "Copyright © %Year% %Your_Name%. All Rights Reserved."
For those that don't know, the © is typed by Alt+0169. The following are the accepted forms of the notice:
- Copyright © 2000 John Smith
- Copyright (c) 2000 John Smith
- Copyright (c) 2000
- (c) 2000
The © can be replaced by a (c) anywhere. This is mainly used (in software) where certain font's don't have the © symbol.
If you are revising/modifying your old creation, the notice should be like this:
Copyright © 1998-2000.
The main change is that the year of first copyright hyphenated with the year of revision.
As soon as you create your work, it is automatically Copyrighted by you, if - and only if - it is your original creation. Remade, retouched or modified works may or may not be capable of this. You should check with a legal specialist for such matters.
Now that you know you have this automatic copyright, you may as well make it public. Place it in an easy to find location such as the splash screen, about box, status bar and so on. As you are the copyright holder, you can set the rules by which licensees or users of your software will have to abide. This is called an EULA, or End-User License Agreement, which we will discuss a bit later.
If you are going to sell your software, it is highly recommended that you register your copyright. In the USA, contact the Patent and Trademark office at D.C. and ask for the appropriate forms. Fill the forms and send a copy of the software along with the required fee, which generally rounds up to $20 or so to the address you are told at the office. Within a few months or so, you will get an official notice that your copyright has been registered.
For other countries, the procedure is usually the same, thought the registration agency may be different. In some countries the procedure may take up to a year or more to complete. Once again, contact your legal advisor.
Trademarks are just like copyrights, but they don't apply to creations like art or software, they apply to names and terms.
If you create a company named Vulcan Developers, you can slap on a ™ or (tm) after it to specify your trademark. There are two signs of trademarks, ™ and ®. The first can be applied to any name you make up, which of course must be 100% original, not even a part of it should be existent beforehand. That is, if you create the name Vulcan Developers, and the word Vulcan has been trademarked already, then it is not completely legal. The latter sign ® can applied only when your trademark has been registered.
Simple word, which in legal terms "fall into the Public Domain", like Developer, Industries, Incorporated, etc cannot be trademarked alone. They need a word like "Greenbone" or such before or after it. Public domain based words, if tried to be trademarked, turn into a hefty fine or a heftier sentence - probably to jail!
To register a trademark, the same procedure of the copyright registration should be followed, but the form and address may differ. The fee of registration will get a bit more, as they differ from country to country, it can range from $20 to $80! The time to complete registration will probably take from 2 to 8 years!!
The notice for trademarks are like the following:
HorseWear is a trademark of HorseClothes, Inc.
HorseWear is a registered trademark of HorseClothes, Inc.
Note that the ® is typed by Alt+0174 while ™ is typed by Alt+0153.
If you use the word "HorseWear" in your creation, but you don't own the trademark, you must specify it like this:
HorseWear is a trademark of HorseClothes, Inc. It is used for informative purposes only and with the interest of the trademark owner without any means of infringement.
I would tell you to counsel a legal advisor again, but I think you're smart enough to know that, right? Right!
Patents are the ultimate Intellectual Property laws. They apply to creations that have been "invented" not just created. You can patent software that uses a unique technique to store data. But you cannot patent software that just uses INI Files!
Patents are usually applied to software that communicates with hardware or that does new things. This gets really complicated and legal counseling is recommended.
Patent processes are considerably different and you'll need to contact the Patent Office or such to learn the procedures. This might take a considerable amount of time.
How long do they last?
Usually, patents last for 75 years or more. Copyrights last for as long as the author/copyright owner live plus 50 or so additional years. The same goes for trademarks.
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