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Legal Studies

Resources for law and legal studies coursework and research. This guide does not explain the law or advise you of your legal rights. Contact an attorney for legal advice.


What does copyright cover?

  • Copyright protects original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. Copyrighted works include the following categories:
    • Literary works (also includes computer software!)
    • Musical works, including any accompanying words
    • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
    • Pantomimes and choreographic works
    • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
    • Sound recordings
    • Architectural works

What is not protected by copyright?

  • Works that you have not fixed in tangible form
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices (Some of these are patented, some trademarked…see below)
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship

Additional Resources for Copyright


What is a patent?

  • A patent is a property right granted by the government of the United States to an inventor to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States for a limited time, in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.

What types of patents are there?

  • Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new, useful and nonobvious process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter (pharmaceuticals, genetically engineered materials), or any new and useful improvement thereof.
  • Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
  • Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

What cannot be patented?

  • Laws of nature
  • Physical phenomena
  • Abstract ideas
  • Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works (see copyright above)
  • Inventions which are not useful or offensive to the public morality

Additional Resources for Patent Information


What is a trademark?

  • A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce, to identify and distinguish the services of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name.
  • Trademarks can be registered within the state or federally. To get a federally registered trade or service mark, the manufacturer or seller must be doing business in more than one state.

What are some kinds of words or images that are inappropriate for use in a trademark or service mark?

  • Generic terms or words used to merely describe the functionality of the goods or services.
  • Obscene, immoral, or deceptive matter.
  • A mark consisting of a name, portrait, or signature of a particular individual, except by the individual's written consent.

Additional Resources for Trademark Information

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