Our AM intellectual-property series concludes with this post.
Other IP Ownership Issues
Ownership issues could arise with respect to other forms of IP. The determination of the ownership of a copyright works in a similar way as the ownership of a patent. Specifically, the ownership of a copyright usually vests with the author, except when the copyrighted work is a work for hire or is the subject of a commission. See 17 U.S. Code § 201.
Ownership issues can become more complex when the copyrighted work is produced by joint authors. This can occur when two or more authors prepare a work with the intent to combine their contributions into inseparable or interdependent parts. Id. In such cases, the work is considered joint work, and the authors are considered joint copyright owners.
The USCO considers joint copyright owners to have an equal right to register and enforce the copyright. Unless the joint owners make a written agreement to the contrary, each copyright owner has the right to commercially exploit the copyright, provided that the other copyright owners get an equal share of the proceeds.
As previously indicated, trademark ownership rights arise out of use. In the U.S., it is possible to “reserve” trademark rights by filing a trademark application on an “intent-to-use” basis. However, the applicant must eventually use the mark before it will be registered. As a result, trademark rights will vest with the first party that uses the mark, unless the mark was registered on an intent-to-use basis by a junior user.
Trade-secret rights vest with the party that discovers the secret. The party will retain those rights as long as the party prevents that trade secret from being disclosed to the general public.
Check out all seven parts of this blog to get the “rest of the story.”