Frequently Asked Questions about intellectual property law

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Note: on separate pages you can see frequently asked questions about patents, copyrights, trademarks, and weblaw.

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What are the meanings of those letters in circles?

© Copyright 1993 to the present, Oppedahl Patent Law Firm LLC.
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. Click for information on the purpose of this page.

The C in a circle (©) represents copyright protection. See General information about copyrights and What constitutes a satisfactory copyright notice?

The R in a circle (®) represents a trademark protected by a federal trademark registration. See When may I use TM and when may I use R-in-a-circle (®)?.

The M in a circle represents a "mask work", protected under the mask work provisions of U.S. copyright law. See What is a mask work?

The P in a circle represents a phonograph or other sound recording protected under pertinent portions of the copyright law. See General information about copyrights.

Yet another commonly used symbol within a circle is the U within a circle, which has nothing to do with intellectual property, but which indicates that a product has been found to be kosher by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (also known as the "OU").

The K in a circle indicates that a product is certified as kosher by the Organized Kashruth Laboratories.

(The U in a circle and K in a circle symbols are registered trademarks, even though they don't have an R-in-a-circle or TM after them.)

From the soc.culture.jewish FAQ:

Subject: 6.3. There are a wide variety of kosher symbols. How do I learn who's behind them?

Every year, Kashrus magazine publishes an index to all the Kosher symbols and the people behind them. The latest index was published in Issue #71, dated Kislev 5755, November 1994. This issue can be ordered from Kashrus, P. O. Box 204, Brooklyn NY 11204. Request the "Kosher Supervision Guide" issue, number 71. The cost is $3.00 (US) for one copy, $2.00 for two to ten copies, and $1.50 for 11 to 50 copies. There are even better rates for more than 50 copies.

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What is an orphan drug?

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Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. Click for information on the purpose of this page.

For a drug company, it is always desirable to have an exclusive market position. One way that a drug company can obtain an exclusive market position for a drug is to obtain a utility patent on the drug; the exclusivity lasts for the 17-year term of the patent. This is helpful only if the drug is a newly discovered substance, however. Thus, while the patent system provides an incentive to discover new substances with medicinal benefits, it provides less of an incentive to investigate possible benefits from the use of an old substance to treat a present-day health problem, since the old substance is not going to be patentable. One possibility is to secure method patent coverage on the newly discovered use of the old substance, but such coverage is often less strong than utility patent coverage on the substance itself.

To provide an incentive to investigate possible new benefits from old substances, the Orphan Drug Law was enacted. This law permits the FDA to grant a seven-year period of exclusive drug approval for a drug which satisfies the requirements of the Orphan Drug Law, namely a drug for a disease or condition which is "rare in the [United] States". For more information the reader is advised to consult competent counsel familiar with the laws and regulations relating to the FDA.

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What is GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade)?

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Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. Click for information on the purpose of this page.

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is a treaty to which the U.S. and many other countries are signatories. Its purpose is to free international trade and reduce tariffs. GATT has been revised several times; each revision is called a "round". The latest, or "Uruguay" Round of GATT requires signatories to protect intellectual property and provide similar protection of intellectual property owned by nationals and foreigners. (Texts of the treaty, the implementing legislation) Adherence by the U.S. to GATT has brought about numerous changes to the U.S. Patent System that bring U.S. patent law into closer harmony with the patent systems of other countries.

Some of the most important changes are discussed in articles in the Oppedahl Patent Law Firm LLC newsletter for May 1995:

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What is the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation)?

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Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. Click for information on the purpose of this page.

The World Intellectual Property Organization is the organization that, together with PCT departments within the patent offices of countries that are signatories to the Treaty, administers the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) program.

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