At times, you write about copyrights. At other times, you write about patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and other legal mumbo-jumbo. I’m confused. What’s all of that got to do with intellectual property?
Back in the dark ages, when the Doc passed the bar, things were pretty clear. Patent Attorneys were people who had science and engineering degrees, went to law school, passed a state bar examination, and then took a special bar examination at the Patent Office called the “Agents Examination”. Do all that and you got to call yourself a patent lawyer, and represent inventors before the Patent Office. Patent Lawyer was one of only two specialties that a lawyer could legally advertise (guess the other!) There was even an organization called the American Patent Law Association (APLA) that you could join.
Of course, it wasn’t all THAT simple, because the actual name of the Office was the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and lots of patent attorneys also represented clients in obtaining trademark registrations, but there was no separate examination to do that, and confusingly, even an attorney who had never passed the Agent’s Exam could represent folks in front of the Trademark part of the PTO. But at least there was a separate professional association for the trademark folks.
Across town from the PTO, there was the Copyright Office, which was (and still is, for now) part of the Library of Congress. No exam there either, and the Copyright lawyers had their own association, too – The Copyright Society.
Because patents, trademarks, and copyrights all protect non-tangible things that people dream up, but that they can sell, lease, license, and otherwise make money on, they came to be grouped together and called “intellectual” property. The Doc’s old boss, Harry Kalish, a great Philadelphia lawyer, used to ask the Doc how he got to be so smart that he could deal with “intellectual” property, instead of the kind that got your boots dirty. (Harry was a great kidder, not that you could tell from that comment, made to the Doc at least once a day for at least three years!)
Then, in the mid-1980s, some not-so-smart intellectual property lawyer got the idea to change the name of the American Patent Law Association (say it three times: “APLA”, “APLA”, “APLA”) to the American Intellectual Property Law Association (say THAT three times “AIPLA”, “AIPLA”, “AIPLA”). They invited in all the other lawyers from the trademark and copyright organizations, and had a big party.
Lawyers who never passed the Agent’s Exam, and could not legally call themselves “Patent Attorneys” started calling themselves “Intellectual Property Attorneys” and pretty soon, you couldn’t tell who did what with whom and where. Lions lay down with lambs. Clients got confused. And darkness descended upon the face of the deep.
And then…just like that, the Doc decided not to worry about it all!
People needed to protect and profit from their inventions, plant varieties, decorative designs, musical compositions, software, sculptures (hard and soft), novels, novellas, graphical novels, photographs, copies of photographs, websites… and the Doc was ready, willing and able to help each and every one of these creative souls in navigating the vagaries of the LAW (cue the Hallelujah Chorus!) The darkness brightened, the clouds parted, and just like in some Monty Python episode, a giant foot descended from on high and created…
™© All Rights Reserved. (lwh-law.com)
Or at least that’s what the Doc told his kids at bed time every night.
Need one of your creations protected? Need a contract written? Want to hear more funny stories? Call the attorneys at LW&H, they’re pretty good at this stuff after all these years. Until next month…
— Lawrence A. Husick, Esq.