There is an ever-growing need for in-house counsel to increase their role in managing their companies' intellectual property issues. No matter its size or character, virtually every business enterprise uses and encounters intellectual property. In-house counsel are in the unique position to marshal the company's intellectual property as well as to initiate procedures to avoid infringing upon the intellectual property of others.
What is intellectual property? The term intellectual property denotes intangible assets of a creative and distinctive character. The traditional cornerstones of intellectual property are patents, trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks. U.S. patent and copyrift protection is rooted in the U.S. Constitution and implementing congressional legislation, both of which secure exclusive rights to these types of intellectual property but only for a limited time. Trademark and trade secret protections evolved from common-law principles of commercial fair dealing and may be of unlimited duration. From these traditional cornerstones, the intellectual property field has expanded to include a wide range of personal rights and statutory hybrids.
While specific industries may require focus upon different areas of intellectual property patents, trade secrets, copyright and trademarks generally will all require attention by in-house counsel, irrespective of industry.