Intellectual “Cyber” Property

Generally, Intellectual Property consists of tangible products of human intellect. Intellectual property law is aimed towards protecting against unauthorized use of intellectual property.

Intellectual property products are "non-rivalrous" in that more than one person can use the same product without compromising the product's availability. While tangible property focuses on the right of exclusive possession, intellectual property rights focus on promoting creativity and invention to benefit the greater public good. In return for contributing to public advancement, applicable law protects authors and inventors and compensates them for the value of their work product. Intellectual cyber property includes, among others, software, images, graphic designs, and web pages.

There are four ways to protect intellectual property - (1) patents (2) copyrights (3) trademarks, and (4) trade secrets. In turn, these categories are subject to both federal and state law. For example, the United States Copyright Act, under 17 U.S.C. §§ 101-810 protects writings, software, graphical works, films and original soundtracks. Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee has recently been reviewing the Property IP Act of 2011, which would provide new methods of protecting cyber property. If the Act were passed into law, it could help strengthen the protections available for intellectual property on the Internet. This law targets websites that have, as their sole purpose, the facilitation of illegal property uses. For example, websites which provide links to download movies and songs illegally would fall into this category. Federal legislation also includes the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"), which criminalizes the improper use of copyrighted material. However, false claims of infringement of intellectual property rights may be grounds for suit under 17 U.S.C. § 512(f).

Online piracy is also a continuing threat for intellectual property owners. A recent study found that online piracy costs intellectual property owners hundreds of billions of dollars. As online piracy continues to exist as a growing threat, it is even more important for intellectual property owners to take steps to protect their property interests in their inventions and works.