Does the Internet Mean the Death of Intellectual Property?
By Nevin Shaffer
Ask any teen if it is ok to download a copy of a song from the Internet for free. Chances are they will say, “If you can do it, it must be ok!” Technology has always stressed existing laws. Now the Internet is stressing and stretching intellectual property (IP) laws but, in my opinion, this stress is good for intellectual property! Here’s why.
What other choice do you have to protect your business? Unless you are willing to give up all hope, patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets are your best protection against competitors and thieves. In a society of laws, such as these United States and most of the relevant markets of the world, laws set the limits of permissible competition and individual behavior. Thus, no matter what technology is developed, the law is still the law and, importantly, ignorance of the law is No Excuse! So while it is far from settled and many violations of your legal rights may go unpunished despite your best efforts to protect yourself, a proper IP protection plan for your business is critical for long term existence in today’s market.
What plan, you might ask, is a proper plan? A proper plan starts with an IP asset analysis to identify what IP you have. Please know that if you are in business you have IP! You have original works of art and authorship (advertisements, software, songs), you have words, symbols and slogans you use to identify and distinguish you from your competitors (brands), you have things you have learned about making your business a success that your competitors would love to know (pricing policies, marketing strategies, customer lists), and you may even have created useful, new and nonobvious improvements to existing technology (chemical, mechanical, electrical, software devices). Many of the protections for these assets exist to a minimum degree upon creation. Maximum protection for your most important IP assets, however, gives you maximum protection against honest competitors and thieves alike. The type of protection you can get from IP is the right to stop people from copying your ads, using your brands, taking your customer list and making, using or selling your inventions! Thus, once identified and protected, your IP assets can give you the leverage you need to end the inevitable conflicts that arise for successful businesses in this Internet connected world.
So, if you ask me, the answer to the title question is No! I believe that instead of killing IP, the Internet has made IP much more important because it may be the only weapon you have to defend your company from the travesties of the Internet itself!
Nevin is a licensed patent attorney and Florida Bar Certified Intellectual Property Law Specialist and has been practicing Intellectual Property law for over 28 years. You may contact Nevin by phone at 850-934-4124 and/or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit his website at www.nevinshaffer.com.
This material is presented for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a legal opinion nor relied upon in lieu of specific legal advice. Accordingly, readers who require legal services in connection with their specific circumstances should consult an attorney competent in the field of intellectual property.