Protecting intellectual property is crucial for any company or entrepreneur in a competitive industry because it allows them to maintain an edge over their competition. As such, many intellectual property owners copyright materials so that other parties cannot use them without authorization.

However, whether you hold or are accused of infringing a copyright, you should understand that there are limitations to copyrights. Knowing this can help you better assess your legal options in the event that a dispute arises involving possible copyright violations.

Limit: Things that can’t be copyrighted
You cannot protect everything with a copyright. As this Inc.com article discusses in more detail, many things cannot be copyrighted, including:

  • Business names
  • Product names
  • Domain names
  • Inventions
  • Calendars
  • Slogans or mottos
  • Ideas

This doesn’t mean these items cannot be protected; they just cannot be protected with a copyright.

Limit: Scope of a copyright
A copyright is a powerful protection tool, but there are exceptions that allow people to use the protected material. These exceptions include use for educational, news, research and critical purposes.

Limit: Duration of copyrights
Depending on when content is created and/or published and who created it, it will have a term of protection. Some last until 70 years after the death of the work’s author, though the duration could be in place for as long as 120 years after the work was created.

What this information means for California business owners
Whether a copyright is properly in place and protects specific content is not always necessarily easy to understand, and harsh penalties may result for the misuse of intellectual property. Consequently, it is important to take copyright issues seriously consult an attorney who can manage, respond to and pursue any legal claims your company may be facing related to copyright issues.