An Overview of Intellectual Property Law For Engineers

INTRODUCTION

7The principles of intellectual property are easy to understand but difficult to apply. Intellectual property laws in the United States are divided into at least three main groups: (1) patent law, (2) trademark and unfair competition law, and (3) copyright law. In the United States, intellectual property is largely governed by federal law. However, each state has limited protections for certain types of intellectual property as well. Each type of intellectual property has its own set of rights, requirements and rules about what is in the public domain, or not eligible for protection. Most engineers have a basic understanding of each of these categories of intellectual property. Today, however, protection of intellectual property increasingly cuts across categorical lines. For example, if you are a manufacturer of CAM/CAD software, you should at least be aware of the interactions between trade secret, copyright, trademarks, patent, and antitrust areas of the law.


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