ProtectYourIP - PROFESSIONAL ISSUES Protect Your Intellectual Property L You need to know the types of protection available to protect your

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L ike it or not, engineers are now re- sponsible for much of the success of a product. You can expect this trend to continue in the electronics industry, so en- gineers must become more involved with documenting and promoting the protec- tion of intellectual property (IP) associ- ated with a given product. Intellectual property includes, among other things, designs, software listings, manufacturing techniques, and testing procedures. Even people in the electronics industry may not realize how much companies rely on IP. But a quick look at the number of patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ( ) in the areas of semicon- ductors and electronics shows rapid growth in the past decade ( Fig. 1 ). Engineers need to think more about how they can help protect IP by using one or more legal means—patents, copy- rights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Each type of protection offers its own ad- vantages and disadvantages. To start, you can think of the range of protection as forming a pyramid ( Fig. 2 ). At its base, the IP protection pyramid rests on trade-secret law. The Uniform Trade Secrets Act defines trade secrets as: “. . . information including a formula, pat- tern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process that derives independent economic value, actual or po- tential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means . . .” Although trade secrets provide broad protection, they have severe lim- its. The information must in fact be se- cret and the owner must take action to preserve this secrecy. Although trade secrets have some use in the electron- ics industry, they offer weak protec- tion, because most engineers move from job to job during their careers. And they take what they have learned with them. Copyrights Don’t Protect Ideas Moving up the IP pyramid leads to copy- rights, which cover works of authorship in program listings, graphic designs, schematic diagrams, and so on. A copy- right gives the copyright owner an exclu- sive right to: reproduce the work, prepare derivative work, distribute copies of the work, and display the work in public. You can obtain a copy- right by filing an applica- tion and paying a $25 fee to the US Copyright Office at the Library of Congress (Washington, DC) ( ). Although the rights to a copyright in a work start from the “fixation” of the work in a tangible medium, the copyright owner must hold an official copyright registration be- fore he or she can sue someone who infringes on the copyright. For works created after January 1, 1978, copyrights generally run from creation for the You need to know the types of protection available to protect your intellectual property.
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This note was uploaded on 09/05/2011 for the course ECO 103 taught by Professor Mary during the Spring '11 term at FH Joanneum.

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ProtectYourIP - PROFESSIONAL ISSUES Protect Your Intellectual Property L You need to know the types of protection available to protect your

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