Drivers and Intellectual Property Law

J. Bradley Klepper
Attorney at Law

CDL drivers are in creative bunch. And I am not just talking about some of the defenses I have heard to various citations. What I mean is that drivers are REALLY creative. The ideas they develop. The inventions they create. The names and logos for their business they come up with. The novels they have written.

Now as lawyer, I not only get to hear about all wonderful developments, but I also get asked how to protect these wonderful ideas, discoveries and inventions. I usually go into a long discussion about the basic tenets of Intellectual Property Law. It can be a lot remember so I thought I would briefly discuss the basic types of intellectual Property Law.

Intellectual Property Law traditionally includes the areas of Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks and Trade Secrets. Intellectual Property actually refers to the ideas, discoveries and inventions created by people.

The U.S. Constitution directly refers to intellectual property in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, which states:
Section 8: The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Clause 8: To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

As you can see, our Founding Fathers were very interested in promoting science, creativity and the arts. What better way to promote ideas and discovery than by rewarding the person with the idea or discovery with total ownership rights for a specific period of time, the protections of the Federal Government in making sure the person with the idea or discovery received the reward? Fortunes were made with this protection!

Let me explain the differences between the different branches of Intellectual Property Law.

Copyright law governs the author’s right to control the use and reproduction of their original works such as songs, plays or books. These legal protections are provided by the U.S. Code Title 17 to the authors of “original works of authorship” of both published and unpublished works. The Copyright Act of 1976, Section 106, gives the owner of a copyright the authority to do and to authorize other to do the following: to reproduce the work in copies; to prepare derivative works based upon the work; to distribute copies of the work to the public by sale, rental, lease, lending or other transfer of ownership; to perform the work publicly; to display the work publicly.

Patents are exclusive rights officially granted by the government to an inventor to make or sell their invention such as a light bulb or jet engine. The government will only grant a ‘patent’ if the invention falls in one of four classes of inventions; a process, such as how a product is manufactured, i.e. what steps are necessary to manufacture a ‘Snickers” bar; machines, such as the cotton gin or typewriter; articles of manufacture, such as a ball point pen; composition of matter, such as a titanium-carbon alloy. Additionally, any ‘patent’ must not be obvious to a person having ordinary skills in the subject matter and the ‘patent’ must have some utility, proof it can be made operable and not be frivolous. In the United States, a patent is issued by the United States patent and Trademark Office.

Trademarks are a name or symbol used to show that a product is made by a particular company and legally registered so that no other company or manufacturer can use that name or symbol such as Drivers Legal Plan® or Cadillac®. A Trademark is not eligible to be registered if it is: immoral, deceptive or of a scandalous matter; a flag or coat of arms or other insignia of the United States, of any state, municipality, or foreign nation; a name , portrait, or signature of a particular living individual except with their written consent; or the name, signature or portrait of a deceased President of the United States during the life of the President’s spouse, except with the spouse’s written consent; or a mark that is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception.

Trade Secrets are company’s secrets; they refer to a secret formula or technique that is used to make a product, known only to the company that manufactures it, such as what ingredients go into Coca Cola. Trade Secrets must be protected and kept secret. Failure to protect the Secrets from disclosure and maintain the Secrets confidential nature will cause you to lose the protections offered by the government. Trade Secrets will remain protected forever, or until the secret is disclosed, however a patent will be disclosed and will lose its protection after a specific time. If you have a Trade Secret and are wondering about whether or not you are better off getting a Patent on the idea, you need to speak with an Intellectual Property Lawyer to see which way will give you the most and best protection.

This information is very basic. Intellectual Property Law is a vast, complex and rapidly changing area of the law due to technology. Now you need to know Computer Law, Internet Law and Communications Law to truly understand Intellectual Property Law. If you have invented the better mousetrap or written the great American novel, I recommend talk to an Intellectual Property Lawyer for actual inquires about any Patent, Trademark, Copyright, Trade Secret, Communications Law, Internet Law or Computer Law questions or concerns you may have. It will be time and money well spent.

Brad Klepper, Esq. is President of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the forty-eight (48) states on both moving and non-moving violations. Brad is also Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at greatly discounted rates. Brad spent almost a decade with the largest law firm in Oklahoma where his practice included extensive experience in transactional law, business defense litigation, and intellectual property. In addition, Brad is a licensed architect and serves as General Counsel to the Oklahoma Board of Architects, Landscape Architects and Interior Designers. Brad has dedicated much of his time to DataQs challenges, which are challenges posed to the FMCSA for CSA incidents, to examine data and reports filed by law enforcement.

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