Intellectual Property and Fair use Provisions

Intellectual property encompasses a rather broad categories of medias, including written media, recorded media, and inventions created by any individual or company, and refers to legal entitlements associated with each of these areas. In short, the term intellectual property encompasses creations of the mind (Reynold, 2002).

There are a number of laws in place which protect these areas, such as copyright, trademarks, patents, and the like. Another important manifestation of intellectual property, especially for large and small businesses alike, is called trade secret. Trade secret does just what the name suggests by protecting the secrets of the business, which may encompass knowledge, techniques, and practices.

Intellectual property, including the aforementioned “trade secret,” help to give any given company a competitive edge in the industry by preventing other companies from infringing on their area of specialty. Most successful businesses find a niche and fit into it, meeting the needs of their clients in a unique and efficient manner. To have other companies “copy” this method and specialty area would be taking away from the business and expanding on it so that it is no longer a niche. In some ways, intellectual property laws keep a company unique, and on top of the field they’re in since it protects what they’ve worked for and built.

The Fair Use Doctrine and Intellectual Property:

The fair use doctrine is a law dealing with the use of copyrighted materials without the permission of the producer. The fair use doctrine applies to such uses as review and scholarly research in which the originating source (the copyrighted document) is cited in the work. However, it is important to note that the citation of the copyrighted does not substitute permission that should be obtained before the work is used.

The right to use copyrighted documents under the fair use doctrine is subject to limitations found in section 107 through 118 of the Copyright Act (U.S Copyright Office, 2006). Four factors are considered in the U.S court system when determining whether use is permitted under the fair use doctrine, or whether a penalty will be implemented for a violation. These four factors, according to the U.S Copyright Office are:

-“The purpose and character of use.

-The nature of the copyrighted work.

-The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.

– the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

Trade Secret Protection:

Trade secrets can make or break a company. Successfully keeping them can boost their position in the business world; however, disclosing these trade secrets can really plunge a company down the ladder of business that they’ve worked hard to climb. Five steps that can be taken in order to prevent the disclosure of trade secrets are:

1. Nondisclosure clauses in employee contracts and independent contractor contracts, complete with legalities and penalties for violators.

2. Keep all files and information considered confidential in a separate “confidential file” or by stamping it with a “confidential” stamp so that those accessing the files know that they constitute as files notes in the company’s confidentiality policy.

3. Conduct exit interviews in which to review confidentiality policies and to return any and all confidential files and information in their possession.

4. Set passwords to computer information, and lock filing cabinets where confidential information is stored. Give this access only to trusted company personal.

5. Hold meetings on a annual or bi-annual basis on company confidentiality policies, the legalities of it, and penalties for violations.

Two acts, the Uniform Trade Secret Act (UTSA) and the Economic Espionage Act (EEA), protect trade secrets meeting their requirements.


U.S Copyright Office. (2006). Fair Use. Retrieved July 8, 2007, from

Reynolds, G. (2007). Ethics in information technology. 2nd edition. Boston, MA: Thomson Course Technology