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Corporate Law Blog Post

Protecting your Intellectual Property in California

Yahoo! and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) issued a joint statement announcing a settlement over an alleged copyright violation by Yahoo!. Two years ago, Asian media group SPH sued Yahoo!, alleging reproduction of its news content without permission. As part of the settlement, Yahoo! acknowledged its reproduction without permission and disclosed that it disciplined and terminated the employees responsible for the breach. Yahoo! also admitted to paying unspecified damages to SPH. 

Defining intellectual property

The term intellectual property (IP) includes creations of the mind such as inventions, artistic works, names, images and designs used in commercial business. IP law is an area that concerns protecting the rights of creators of original commercial and artistic works. California IP lawyers have three instruments to protect the intellectual property of innovators:  patents, trademarks and copyrights.


Patents are a legal tool to guard an invention from being re-made, sold or used by others for a defined period. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) identifies the following types of patents that may be issued: 

  • Utility — Given to a person who creates or discovers a new and beneficial machine, process or composition of matter or anything else of value
  • Design — Granted to a person who creates a new ad ornamental design for a physical product, such as a machine or device
  • Plant — Bestowed upon a person who discovers, develops and asexually reproduces a new type of plant 

To avail the legal protection of a patent, inventors must apply and be approved for a patent by the USPTO.


Trademarks are legal mechanisms to guard the names and marks that identify products and companies. The goal of trademarks is to provide an easy way for customers to distinguish competing companies. Trademarks are automatically assumed when a business begins marketing its products or company with a distinguishable mark or symbol.


Copyrights provide protection to owners of artistic works such as paintings, sculptures, music and novels. The purpose of copyrights is to empower owners to exclusively reproduce their work, display or perform their work and gain the financial benefit of their creativity. 

IP law can be complex and requires the guidance of an experienced San Jose IP attorney who understands how to protect your business interests. Contact our office for a consultation.

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Creech Liebow & Kraus
333 West San Carlos Street, Suite 1600
San Jose, California, 95110-2726 USA