A PR Practitioners Guide to IP Laws

Ann-Marie L. Auger-Andrews

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property refers to a work or creation such as: literary and artistic works, inventions, symbols and designs, and images and names. Intellectual property are protected under laws such as copyright, trademark, and patent laws. These laws protect the inventor and allow them to earn financial benefits. (WIPO, 2016)

Introduction to Intellectual Property: Crash Course IP 1


"Original creative works such as paintings, writing, architecture, movies, software, photos, dance, and music are protected by federal copyright law. A work must meet certain minimum requirements to qualify for copyright protection. The length of protection also varies depending on when the work was created or first published." (Stim, n.d.)

Items protected under copyright laws are:

  • books, magazines, blogs, and newspapers
  • games and software
  • charts, maps, and graphs
  • music and lyrics
  • videos, movies, and TV broadcasts
  • photos and artwork

(Lasky, Edelman, & Keen, n.d.)


"A trademark is a recognizable insignia, phrase or other symbol that denotes a specific product or service and legally differentiates it from all other products." (Investopedia, 2016)

Brand names such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and Apple are all examples of trademarks as they recognizably identify and distinguish products and services.

Patent and Patent Infringement

"A patent is a government license that gives the holder exclusive rights to a process, design or new invention for a designated period of time." (Investopedia, 2016)

Patent Infringement

"Patent infringement is the act of making, using, selling, or offering to sell a patented invention, or importing into the United States a product covered by a claim of a patent without the permission of the patent owner. Further, you may be considered to infringe a patent if you import items into the United States that are made by a patented method, unless the item is materially changed by subsequent processes or becomes a trivial and nonessential component of another product. A person "infringes" a patent by practicing each element of a patent claim with respect to one of these acts. Further, actively encouraging others to infringe patents, or supplying or importing components of a patented invention, and related acts can also give rise to liability in certain cases." (USPTO, 2016)

What is Fair Use?

"In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an illegal infringement." (Stim, n.d.)

Fair Use stipulates that only under certain circumstances can brief excerpts of copyrighted material can be quoted verbatim - the only instances where this is possible is for teaching, research, and news reporting purposes. In these cases there is no need for permission from the creator (copyright holder) or payment to the creator.


Investopedia. (2016) Patent Definition. Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/patent.asp

Investopedia. (2016). Trademark Definition. Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/trademark.asp

Lasky, Edelman, and Keen. (n.d.). How to Copy "Right" and How Not to Copy "Wrong." Retrieved from


Stim, R. (n.d.). Overview of Intellectual Property Laws. Retrieved from http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/introduction/intellectual-property-laws/

Stim, R. (n.d.). What is Fair Use? Retrieved from


USPTO. (2016). About Patent Infringement? Retrieved from https://www.uspto.gov/patents-maintaining-patent/patent-litigation/about-patent-infringement

WIPO. (2016). What is Intellectual Property? Retrieved from