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Intellectual Property Research

Resources for Intellectual Property Law Research, including patent law, trademark law, copyright law, and trade secret law


U.S. Copyright Office definition:

"Copyright refers to the author's (creators of all sorts such as writers, photographers, artists, film producers, composers, and programmers) exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and publicly perform and display their works. These rights may be transferred or assigned in whole or in part in writing by the author. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, work created by an employee is usually owned by the employer. "

The duration of most copyrights is the life of the author plus 70 years.  For more information about the duration of copyrights, see U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 15.

Seal of the United States Copyright Office   The U.S. Copyright Office is a separate department within the Library of Congress.

"Original works of authorship" are copyrightable.

Copyrightable works include: 

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

The following are NOT copyrightable:

x  Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, or discoveries

x  Works that are not fixed in a tangible form

x  Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans

x  Familiar symbols or designs

x  Mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring

x  Mere listings of ingredients or contents

x  Works created by federal government employees as part of their job

For more information, see U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1.

Copyright protection is automatic when an original work is fixed in a tangible form.  Registration is NOT required to confer copyright protection.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1, registration of a copyright has the following benefits:

  1. Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration (or refusal) is necessary for works of U.S. origin.
  2. Registration establishes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and facts stated in the certificate when registration is made before or within five years of publication.
  3. When registration is made prior to infringement or within three months after publication of a work, a copyright owner is eligible for statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
  4. Registration permits a copyright owner to establish a record with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

Copyright Office Learning Engine Video Series

The U.S. Copyright Office hosts an educational web portal called the Learning Engine that introduces copyright concepts to those who are new to these topics or who want to learn more.

Videos are also available directly on the Copyright Office Youtube channel and cover the following topics:

Learn about what copyright involves, including what types of works are subject to copyright protection.

Learn what to do when you find information on the Internet you would like to use.

Copyright generally doesn’t cover ideas. This video explains how this applies through examples of instances when ideas are not protected under the law.

Learn what “fair use” is and how it applies when you are looking to use a copyright-protected work. Learn the factors that go into evaluating whether or not a situation meets fair use standards.