Bruce Maxwell is a professor at Colby College and a successful entrepreneur.  He held a workshop for the EA about intellectual property and the various ways to go about protecting it. The purpose of intellectual property law is to encourage people to continue to develop and promote new ideas.  There are four categories of IP: trademark, patents, copyright, and trade secrets.

Trademark – A trademark is a logo, name or phrase that identifies a product or company.  the TM symbol is used before you have researched/claimed the trademark, and once your trademark becomes registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, you can use the registered trademark symbol.

Patent – A patent claim must: be allowable material (a process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, etc.), have utility, have novelty, be non-obvious, be adequately described, and be claimed by inventor in clear terms.  You can NOT patent abstract ideas, laws of nature, physical phenomena, etc. Professor Maxwell informed us that making sure your patent claim deals with the allowable material can be the biggest hurdle.

Copyright – A copyright is used for expressions of creative work. A copyright gives you the right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and to perform the work publicly. There are exceedingly long time limits on copyrights; it can last the life of the author + at least 70 years from creation.

Trade Secrets – Trade secrets have no limits and are very important before you have established any other IP. Trade secrets are not useful for sellable items, such as software. The rules for a trade secret are that it must have novelty, must represent economic investment, must involve effort in development, and the company must make an effort to keep it secret.

Thank you so much to Professor Maxwell for all the incredibly useful information!

-Lauren Harris ’12