USN intellectual property terms guide

Discussion in 'Site Discussions & Suggestions' started by FAST6191, Sep 8, 2012.

  1. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip Reporter
    Nov 21, 2005
    United Kingdom
    We have a few guides for the USN and they appear to be doing quite a bit of good- is it perhaps worth raising the bar a bit and adding in a thread on intellectual property types and how they work? Nothing egregious has been spotted yet but raising level of discourse is always good.

    Rough overview of what I am thinking, still somewhat unfinished and probably wrong/unclear in a place or two.

    Intellectual property is a hot topic in the modern world and many things and news articles stem from it. To better help figure out what things actually mean and how relevant they might be the following is some discussion on the matter. It varies as you change countries but that has hopefully been elaborated upon where necessary and the broad strokes are all the same anyway

    A few hundred years ago intellectual property became a thing which is to say ideas and works were afforded a measure of protection ostensibly so as to allow creators of works and ideas to profit from them and create more of them. Today there are several types but it is usually broken down into three main types with a couple of offshoots depending where you are in the world.

    An automatic (for the most part) right granted to any and all intellectual works and certain parts of them- take a photo and you have copyright to that photo. Originally supposed to be time limited but in practice anything you make today or enjoy from your youth will probably be in copyright until the day you die and maybe a bit after that as well.

    Main exemptions to it are for satire, criticism/review and education. There is the related concept of fair use where you can sample a part of it for various reasons or do things that some copyright holders might like (in the UK it is usually considered to be technically illegal to convert a CD to a MP3 but it is ignored/not pursued by the police or anybody really).
    Recent curiosity- the Zynga vs EA case. A copyright is usually for a work itself rather than something similar (that usually falls under trademark law).
    Less recently- some homebrew on the GBA did not feature a complete header as the header contained the Nintendo logo which could have fallen under copyright violation. This was probably being cautious as a very important earlier ruling known as Sega vs accolade ( and ) ruled that such a thing probably did not count although there was an even earlier ruling known as Atari vs Nintendo ( ) which dealt with a similar thing which would have backed Nintendo up.

    Choice video

    Where copyrights protect works (and are supposed to just protect those works) these are aimed at methods of doing things (and sometimes software and ways of doing business).
    Varies from industry to industry as to how long they apply for but it is a length of time you are quite likely to see the end of; usually about twenty years although for some things (software patents especially) this is considered far too long much like the scope of copyright. Patents themselves are documents drawn up and filed (for a not unreasonable fee) which will have an overview of the thing they cover, a description of how they work, some diagrams on how they work, a "preferred embodiment" and the "claims". Claims are frequently nested within each other and it depends where you are as to how much you have to shoot down (US patents usually want the lot to be shot down where Europe will quite often invalidate a patent for a few key claims being shot down). Once you file a patent the clock is ticking and you can also put "patent pending" on your item although the specifics there are probably best left to the upcoming video.

    Exemptions are tricky. Much of Europe will not allow the patenting of software methods and for a while the US did allow them although in some ways they have been reduced in scope. Likewise the US will sometimes allow the patenting of certain DNA strands but biochemistry/pharmacology patents are rarely dealt with around here so read up if you want but it will probably not apply.
    Key concepts are prior art- if you can demonstrate someone made something equivalent to it before the patent was filed (sometimes filed, sometimes granted, sometimes if you can prove you had something first) and this can include the patent holders own items (two years being the US thing).
    Obviousness- a tricky term but if you have something that is the logical conclusion from say reading a textbook then it can be rendered invalid (the usual phrase is obvious to an expert in the field)
    There are further important rulings in the UK at least by way of the "Gillette defence" (if you start with something and make small changes and end up with something covered by a patent you well might be free and clear) and Catnic Components Ltd v Hill & Smith Ltd which dealt with how much change is required (ish) as well as several others .

    Patents themselves rarely trouble software (although there were some like the Sega Crazy taxi patent which later troubled the Simpsons hit and run game) but hardware (most notably at time of writing the mobile phone and tablet industry) frequently sees them and legend had it Nintendo had the patent on the dpad which is why their Dpads were often considered superior to the alternatives (they hit upon the "best" design and others were forced to gimp their stuff to avoid infringing). New ones are quite interesting as they can give clarity to things that are mainly marketing at this point and even possible future directions for a company.
    The US patent office has something of a reputation for granting patents without many qualms (although to say without restriction would be overstating it a lot) and many companies will attempt to build large portfolios of them so if another company comes along and accuses them of patent infringement they can instead point at their own portfolio and say well you infringed upon ours and either it goes nuclear or things back down. Further to this is the concept of the patent troll where a company will gain patents and sue people (often including huge companies) based on them but as a court case is hard/expensive to wage as the defence (various reasons including "beyond reasonable doubt" is now "likely they have infringed" or worse in patent world) will often settle instead as it is cheaper in the long run.

    Choice video (US centric and considerably more long winded than the copyright one)
    Patents for Hackers at HOPE 9

    Another thing you have to apply for and they only last a handful of years unless you renew them. This is a thing you apply for to stop others from making products that could reasonably be confused with your own although quite notably they are limited to your field of interest as a company; where you could not get away with making something similar to say Need for speed games you could make need try to file for need for speed pharmaceuticals. Most notably they have to be defended lest they become genericized trademarks and thus invalid in many cases. The most notable of them is fairly complex but usually seen as the Red Cross having their hand forced into defending their trademark on the red cross symbol and newer games (and sometimes ports of old ones) having to use other things on their medkits. Outside computer games those running the superbowl for American football have been quite zealous in protecting their trademark hence bars and clubs doing things like holding an "uberbowl" party.
    There is a related thing called a service mark which is, as the name implies, to protect a service you might offer rather than a work and not really something seen often in game related discussion.

    There is less to know about trademarks other than new ones being filed are considerably more interesting (although filing a defensive trademark is far from unheard of) than an old one being renewed- renewing an old trademark for a company is the functional equivalent of renewing an old domain as it does not cost a lot of legal time or money.

    Offshoots and others
    In the UK and some of the Europe with some rough equivalents elsewhere are

    Design rights and Registered design
    The former is a kind of equivalent to copyright for certain designs where the latter is a kind of hybrid between copyright and patents in that it is less broad than a patent and more apt for physical things than a lot of copyright. has more on the UK versions (which are the terms used above). Where patents, trademarks and copyright are reasonably cross border or even properly international these sorts of offshoots make not make it outside the borders of a country.
    Further video
    Deals with a few of the offshoots and is otherwise quite interesting as an exercise in how it plays out in the real world across countries and continents.

    Usually born off the back of copyright although there is the concept of software as a service, hardware as a service and usage of patents, names, copyrights and trademarks.
    This is a minefield not least of all because in many countries, most notably NOT including the US, any agreement after the point of sale/download is considered invalid. Here to use some software, an item or something similar you might have to agree to restrictions on use of it. There is a whole class of lawyers devoted to licensing law although the main things there are usually clauses that are not legal to be enforced (usually stuff like I can not demand your firstborn if you screw up) although it gets quite specific and very pro licensee.
    Most notably recently came a ruling on second hand software making it legal where before it was at best a grey area .
  2. Rydian

    Rydian Resident Furvert™

    Feb 4, 2010
    United States
    Cave Entrance, Watching Cyan Write Letters
    I've been considering making a "Piracy is not theft" article... since there's always people that don't understand it.
  3. Terminator02

    Terminator02 ヽ( 。 ヮ゚)ノ

    Apr 10, 2010
    United States
    Somewhere near monkat
    As opposed to the different forms of intellectual property, piracy vs theft can be explained with a simple image.
    2 people like this.
  4. Rydian

    Rydian Resident Furvert™

    Feb 4, 2010
    United States
    Cave Entrance, Watching Cyan Write Letters
    Well it's mainly the idea that piracy directly and financially hurts companies that people seem to have ingrained in their head.
  5. Another World

    Another World Emulate the Planet!

    Former Staff
    Jan 3, 2008
    From Where???
    here is something to consider:

    if sales are down because everyone is pirating, forcing stores to no longer order the product for resale, it can hurt the company. a lot of the smaller companies do not have huge publishing deals that pay for all of their expenses. sales of the hardware/software is how they make back their initial investment.

    -another world
    1 person likes this.
  6. Rydian

    Rydian Resident Furvert™

    Feb 4, 2010
    United States
    Cave Entrance, Watching Cyan Write Letters
    Here's something else to consider:

    If a friend comes over and watches a movie at your place, then he's already seen the movie without having to pay for it. Then he won't need to get the movie from the store or see it in theaters.
  7. omgpwn666

    omgpwn666 Guy gamer and proud!

    Jun 14, 2008
    United States
    But he will be a walking advertisement if the movie was good. He will tell others, and they will tell others, assuring lots of sales... unless they pirate.