Intellectual Property Law Section

Louisiana State Bar Association

Welcome to the Intellectual Property Law Home Page, operated as a public service by the Intellectual Property Law Section of the Louisiana State Bar Association. We hope this will help creators of intellectual property in Louisiana and elsewhere to understand and protect their rights.

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is the product of someone's mental efforts. It is usually intangible, and its value lies in its appeal to others who might wish to use it or the goods it describes. Intellectual property is divided into three basic categories: copyrights, patents, and trademarks. For the most part intellectual property is governed by federal law, though each state has some limited protections for certain types of intellectual property as well. Each type of intellectual property has its own set of rights and its own requirements for protection, as well as its own rules about what is in the public domain, or not eligible for protection.

COPYRIGHT protects the expression of ideas, whether words, music, visual or performing arts, or any other creative endeavor. Copyrights are issued only by the U.S. Copyright Office, which is part of the Library of Congress. They cannot be issued by any state. To be eligible for a copyright a work must be original and must be fixed, which means written, recorded, or depicted in a tangible form. A copyright need not be registered to be valid, but registered copyrights are entitled to greater remedies if infringed. In general, U.S. copyright protection now lasts for seventy years after the author's death (1998 change to prior law, which was fifty years after the author's death), but under certain circumstances the time is shorter. The 1998 extension of the term of copyrights applies retroactively to all copyrights since January 1, 1978 and is automatic.

PATENTS protect inventions, whether of a product or a process. To be eligible for patent protection the invention must be a significant improvement over the prior art. Patents are issued only by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and cannot be issued by any state. To file a patent application, an attorney must be registered as a patent attorney with the Patent and Trademark Office. U.S. patent protection lasts for twenty years.

TRADEMARK protects business, product or service names, slogans, or logos. Trademarks (or servicemarks, if used for services) can be issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office if the mark is eligible, or by state agencies (in Louisiana, the Secretary of State). The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issues registrations for marks that are used across state lines, that uniquely describe the goods and services, and that are not likely to be confused with other marks. There are other requirements as well. U.S. trademark registrations are valid for ten years if properly documented, and can be renewed indefinitely under appropriate conditions. In Louisiana the state requirements are the same, except that the mark need not be used across state lines. Other states have similar provisions.

Other rights include the right of a visual artist to attribution and to prevent destruction of certain types of works; and protection against certain kinds of unfair trade practices and unfair competition. These rights are governed at least in part by state law.

What cannot be registered?

Ideas cannot be registered or protected except as embodied in a work that can be protected by patent, trademark, or copyright. An idea that is not commonly known or disclosed can be protected by a trade secret agreement, which is a contract prepared specifically to prohibit disclosure of someone else's unique idea.

What if someone uses intellectual property without permission?

The owner of intellectual property has the exclusive right to use it or to license its use. The set of rights varies depending on whether the property is a copyright, patent, or trademark. In general, if protected intellectual property is used without its owner's permission, the owner may sue, usually in federal court, for an injunction to stop unauthorized use and for damages. Rights and remedies depend on the individual circumstances.

Who can help?

If you have any questions or need help or advice about intellectual property law, we invite you to contact any of the Section members listed below. We are a group of Louisiana lawyers who practice in the various aspects of intellectual property law. We are united by our belief that intellectual property must be fully protected and by our concern for the protecting the rights of the owners of intellectual property. Click on the community nearest you to find a lawyer nearby.

New Orleans

Jefferson Parish

Baton Rouge





Other Sites of Interest:

Intellectual Property Matters:

Computers and the Law

Copyright Clearance Center

The Copyright Website

GGMark (All About Trademarks)

Intellectual Property Creators Website

The Intellectual Property Information Mall

Intellectual Property Magazine

Intellectual Property Web Sites

Kohn on Music Licensing



The Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program

Trademarks and Business Goodwill

Trademark Law Materials, Cornell Law School



Louisiana State Government

Louisiana Laws

Louisiana State Bar Association

Selected Louisiana Resources on the Internet

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