Technology has been a significant factor in the global economy for decades. Technology companies must protect their intellectual property as they grow and expand internationally to ensure continued success.
International Treaties Covering the Technology Industry
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a United Nations special agency that promotes intellectual property protection worldwide. WIPO operates an international treaty system that provides standardized protection for intellectual property rights. Companies that are members of WIPO must adhere to these treaties.
The WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, known as the WCT and WPPT, respectively, are two more international treaties that affect the technology industry. The WCT amended the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, a treaty that provides copyright protection for authors. The WPPT updated the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms, and Broadcasting Organizations, a treaty that provides copyright protection for performers and producers of phonograms.
Both the WCT and WPPT establish minimum standards of copyright protection that member states must provide. These treaties also give technology companies the right to file civil lawsuits against infringers in other countries.
The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) sets out minimum standards of intellectual property protection provided by member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The TRIPS Agreement covers many intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) establishes rules for trade and investment between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The NAFTA agreement includes provisions that strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights in all three countries.
Technology companies doing business in the international arena should be aware of these and other international treaties affecting the protection of their intellectual property rights.
Issues of Intellectual Property in the Technology Industry
The fundamental issues involved in intellectual property rights are patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.
A patent is a government-granted monopoly on an invention. A technology company can use a patent to prevent others from making, using, or selling the design covered by the patent. Patents are available for both products and processes.
A trademark is a distinctive mark or sign identifying a product or service. Trademarks can be words, logos, or other symbols. Technology companies use trademarks to distinguish their products from those of their competitors.
Copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship, such as books, movies, and computer software. Copyright protection is available for both published and unpublished works.
A trade secret is any information with commercial value that is not generally known to the public. Technology companies often rely on trade secrets to protect their most valuable information, including formulas, designs, and plans.
To protect a trade secret, a technology company must take steps to keep the information secret. These steps may include restricting access to the information and requiring employees to sign non-disclosure agreements.
To obtain a patent, trademark, or copyright, a technology company must file the corresponding application with the government agency responsible for granting it in the country involved. They must seek the help of trademark, copyright, and patent lawyers to ensure that they are completely protected.
How Organizations Can Protect Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property issues can be complex, but companies can take some basic steps to ensure their intellectual property is protected.
First, companies should educate their employees about intellectual property and the importance of protecting it. This education can help employees understand what information is protected and how to keep it confidential.
Second, companies should have policies and procedures to protect their intellectual property. These policies and procedures should address issues such as the use of non-disclosure agreements, handling confidential information, and the ownership of intellectual property created by employees.
Third, companies should consider registering their trademarks, copyrights, and patents. Registration makes it easier to enforce these rights in court.
Fourth, companies should be aware of the intellectual property laws in other countries where they do business. These laws may differ from those in the United States, so it is crucial to understand how they may affect the company.
Finally, technology companies should also be aware of the risk of infringement when they enter into business relationships with other companies. For example, a technology company may license its technology to another company. If the other company uses the technology to infringe on the intellectual property rights of a third party, the technology company may be held liable for infringement.
Technology companies must protect their intellectual property to maintain their competitive edge. They must understand the different types of intellectual property rights and how to watch each one. That can help to ensure that their valuable information remains confidential and protected.