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IP – Hit or Miss? Patenting the socks off of your copyright (TM)

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Not another newspaper article about IP! (Image from flickr – Brandon Grasley – source link below)

OK, before we begin, please note that this could turn into a mild rant. There, you’ve been warned.

One of the recurring topics on this blog is the series of articles called “IP – Hit or Miss?” which we use to analyse the representation of intellectual property (IP) in films, TV and the media. We’ve generally focussed on film and TV references but recently I’ve noticed a number of articles in the press where the terms “patent”, “trade mark” and “copyright” have been used seemingly interchangeably. Now come on guys, it’s not that hard to get it right? Is it?

Well, maybe it is. So it’s time to name and shame and then educate. In the words of Popeye “That’s all I can stand, I can’t stands no more”.

These are the references that I’ve seen in just the last 9 days or so:

1) “Rita Orla has applied for a trademark patent”. Culprit: The Sun. IP Hit or Miss verdict: Miss!

2) Pharrell Williams “owns the copyright to the phrase ‘I AM'”. Culprit: Rolling Stone Music. IP Hit or Miss verdict: Miss!

3) “Black Eyed Peas man says Pharrell Williams’s i am OTHER brand infringes his copyright”. Culprit: The Guardian. IP Hit or Miss verdict: Double Miss! (Double because a number of people have pointed out the error to The Guardian on Twitter but the article has not been corrected).

4) “The firms putting a copyright on cancer”. Culprit: The Telegraph. IP Hit or Miss verdict: Miss!

So, as far as their IP references are concerned, all of the above articles contain errors* (or at least errors on publication). However, all of these articles could be corrected quickly and easily and, if people took maybe 10 seconds to double check their facts, there’s no reason why these errors should keep happening.

So, what does the Intellectual Property Office have to say about the different types of IP?

Patents – protect the features and processes that make things work.

Trade marks – trade marks are signs (like words and logos) that distinguish goods and services in the marketplace.

Copyright – copyright is an automatic right which applies when the work is fixed, that is written or recorded in some way.

So, generally speaking, if someone has invented something, it’s a patent you want to reference; if someone is selling something, it’s a trade mark; and if someone has written, composed, painted something, it’s copyright.

The eagle eyed among you will have noticed that I’ve left out designs (Designs – designs protect the appearance of a product/logo, from the shape of an aeroplance to a fashion item). This is because (i) I’ve not found a recent article that gets this wrong and (ii) the big confusion with designs is with the phrase “design patent” which is correct or incorrect depending where you live and is a whole other rant for a later date!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some work but, before I go, I can unveil our new slogan at work. What do you think?

Patenting the socks off of your copyrightTM

Mark Richardson  2 July 2013

* Running through those 4 articles again the correct IP references are:

1) Trade mark. No reference to patent should appear in this article

2) Trade mark. No reference to copyright needed.

3) See (2)!

4) Patent not copyright.


Post image from flickr.com – Brandon Grasley

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