What is Intellectual Property?

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 “Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.” (Learn more: World Intellectual Property Organization)

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 In the United States, intellectual property is protected by various laws, including copyright laws, patent laws, and trademark laws. As a creator of intellectual property, you should know your rights within those laws.


3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 As defined in federal copyright law, a copyrighted work is an original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which it can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship (including some computer programs) include the following categories: written works; musical works, including any accompanying words; dramatic works, including any accompanying music; pantomimes and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works (photographs, prints, diagrams, models, and technical drawings); motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; architectural works; and coyrightable elements of trademarked materials.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Copyright protection covers original expression. It does not protect ideas. For instance, an idea expressed in a classroom discussion is not protected by copyright, but a powerpoint slide used for a classroom presentation may be. (Learn more: Copyright Office of the Library of Congress)


5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Patents protect ideas that consist of any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. A patent grants the patentee “the right 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, and, if the invention is a process, of the right to exclude others from using, offering for sale or selling throughout the United States, or importing into the United States, products made by that process.”


6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Trademarks means any words or symbols, or combination of words or symbols, that are used to represent Middlebury’s services and/or goods. Trademark rights are derived from the use by Middlebury of the trademark or service mark in connection with its services and goods. Learn more: US Patent and Trademark Office)

Intellectual Property within the scope of employment

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 2 Copyright law stipulates that an employee’s creations, when they are done within that employee’s scope of duties, are considered “work for hire” and thus the property of the employer, rather than the employee. Academic institutions, however, often consider some kinds of scholarly and professional work to fall outside of the scope of employment for faculty and sometimes staff. According to the Statement on Copyright by the American Associate for University Professors, “[I]t has been the prevailing academic practice to treat the faculty member as the copyright owner of works that are created independently and at the faculty member’s own initiative for traditional academic purposes” and “A work should NOT be treated as ‘made for hire’ merely because it is created with the use of university resources, facilities, or materials of the sort traditionally and commonly made available to faculty members.” The rationale for this is described by legal scholar Paul Goldstein, “Because of the tradition of independence and judgment that are commonly associated with professional activities, the fact that the individual who prepared the work is a professional, such as an architect or university professor, will weigh heavily toward a finding that he, rather than his employer, is the author of any works that he creates while in the other’s employ.” Paul Goldstein, Esq. Copyright, 2nd ed. §4.3.2 (Aspen Publishers 2005).

Fair Use and Using others’ Intellectual Property

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 From the American Association for University Professors, “Fair use is a statutory exception to the general rule of copyright ownership. It affects or limits not who is considered the author and copyright holder, but rather the rights of that copyright holder. The doctrine provides that no matter who owns the copyright, certain uses are not considered a violation of that copyright.” Fair use is a tricky concept, one that creates a lot of “gray area,” so faculty and staff are advised to approach others’ copyrighted materials carefully.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 View Middlebury’s copyright and fair use guidelines here: http://www.middlebury.edu/about/handbook/library/copyright

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