Intellectual property law without secrets - why is it worth knowing?


Patent protection, inventions, licenses, trademarks, copyrights, industrial and utility designs ... Today, intellectual property law is a very broad field that should not be ignored by any entrepreneur. Although the subject may seem complicated, and the enigmatic name "intellectual property" itself can make the entrepreneur a headache, it is certain that every business owner should be aware of it and be familiar with it, at least in the basic scope. Although intellectual property law is nowadays often the focus of innovative entrepreneurs and is the basis of their business activities, for many people it is still a little-known subject.

In order to increase entrepreneurs' awareness of the way in which intellectual property law is regulated, provide knowledge on its protection and encourage respect for the rights of other persons or institutions in this regard, this article is a prelude to a series of publications aimed at entrepreneurs on intellectual property rights.

What is intellectual property law?

Intellectual property law plays a very important role in the modern world and modern, modern economy, which bases its development on knowledge and innovation. Intellectual property, despite its intangible nature, is of great value. What is?

Simply put, intellectual property is anything that has arisen as a result of an intellectual process and has been presented in material form. This may include:

  • technical solutions (inventions and utility models),

  • practical and aesthetic products (industrial design),

  • elements with unique and distinguishing features, building the market reputation of the products (trademark, geographical indication), as well as

  • various works protected by copyright (literary, scientific, musical, art works, architectural designs, computer programs or databases).

There are a number of rights related to the above-mentioned areas, which are regulated in the following acts:

  • in the field of artistic, scientific and literary property rights - the Act of February 4, 1994 on Copyright and Related Rights (consolidated text: Journal of Laws of 2006, No. 90, item 631, as amended) and Act of 27 July 2001 on the protection of databases (Journal of Laws No. 128, item 1402, as amended);

  • in the field of industrial property law - the Act of June 30, 2000 - Industrial Property Law (consolidated text: Journal of Laws of 2013, item 1410) and the Act of April 16, 1993 on combating unfair competition (text consolidated text: Journal of Laws of 2003, No. 153, item 1503, as amended).

Moreover, numerous acts of international law apply to the above-mentioned areas of human activity, mainly in relation to issues that have not been directly regulated in Polish law. In economic practice, it is therefore necessary to comply with the provisions of various types of directives, because Poland has ratified them and implemented them into its internal legal system, and thus they are in force in our country.

Why is it worth knowing intellectual property law?

These are all mere facts and boring theory. Many entrepreneurs are probably wondering how does this relate to their companies? Why do we say that every entrepreneur should be familiar with the regulations regarding intellectual property? There are many reasons. Below we present the most important and, in our opinion, the most convincing.

Reason No. 1

First of all, because Art. 55 of the Civil Code, the company's components include, inter alia: proprietary copyrights and related property rights, as well as patents and other industrial property rights, i.e. protection rights from trademarks. So every entrepreneur should know how to properly manage these rights both at the time of acquisition and at the time of use for various purposes. This is a strategic task for the company. Of course, it should be remembered that the issue of intellectual property protection in an enterprise is a complex issue, varied depending on the type of enterprise and conducted activity.

Reason number 2

You should be aware that nowadays intellectual property (and above all works within the meaning of copyright) is an integral part of the Internet. After all, contracts with copyright elements constitute the majority of contracts concluded online (e.g. contracts for the creation of a website, computer program, articles, photos, etc.). The Internet is used by practically everyone, it is an element that is permanently inscribed in the lives of most people, especially young people. Although sometimes we do not realize it, we spread legally protected goods via the Internet, we actively influence these goods, we often have the opportunity to modify them - everyone should know when they have the right to do so and when they are not entitled to it. Every entrepreneur who uses Internet resources as part of his business should know this. You must always remember that the availability of Internet resources does not mean that they can be used freely and unlimitedly.

Reason number 3

Entrepreneurs, especially smaller ones, who often lack the funds to hire full-time employees, establish cooperation with freelancers or external companies, commissioning them to provide various types of services, execution of an order or work. It should be borne in mind that the issue of copyright to a work created by an employee is regulated differently in the case of employment under an employment contract than in the case of civil law contracts.

Reason number 4

New technologies develop at a frantic pace. Entrepreneurs, as part of their enterprise and their activities, should know how to use modern technological achievements such as computer programs, databases, computer networks as objects protected by law. Moreover, knowledge in the field of intellectual property protection is very much needed by entrepreneurs if they implement innovations, transfer technologies from the science sector to the economic sector.

Reason number 5

The competition is not sleeping. Nowadays, if we have an idea and we are convinced that it is a good and profitable idea, we must protect it at all costs. The entrepreneur should know his rights and be able to protect them, so that the competition does not use his achievements, work results, inventions, works or works in any way. It also works the other way around. A business owner should know what his or her obligations are so as not to inadvertently overcome the rights of other entities. It should be emphasized that proper protection of intellectual property and effective management of rights to them very often determines whether enterprises gain a competitive advantage on the market.

Reason number 6

It is said that good advertising is the basis of success. Entrepreneurs, wishing to stand out on the market, gain a crowd of loyal customers, expand their popularity and gain publicity, advertise themselves and their products. And advertising is after all contracts, licenses, transfer of copyrights.

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Reason number 7

Company logo, internet domain, website design, catchy advertising slogan, unique product created by the entrepreneur, protected as a trademark, its name, database of potential customers, computer program improving the work of the enterprise, design of a cup with an original design produced by a production company ceramics, a design of a pendant and earrings created by a professional craftsman, a design of a modern functional armchair with an unusual shape created by a furniture company, a previously unknown improvement of the device, allowing it to work better and faster - these are just individual examples of intangible components of the company that can be protected. Although immaterial, their value is calculated in money, as material as possible.

The above reasons are still not convincing?

Reason No. 8 will convince you for sure.

Penalties and damages. Not everyone is fully aware of this, but violating someone else's intellectual property rights entails civil and criminal liability. Why civilian? Because the aggrieved party may seek redress from a person who infringes his intellectual property right, most often in the form of compensation. Why is a criminal offense? Because for the violation of rights, you can be held criminally responsible and even sentenced to imprisonment.

An example is the provisions of the Copyright Act. The copyright law in Poland is very restrictive (it is said to be the strictest in all of Europe). Compensation claims, depending on the degree of fault and intention, may range from twice to five times the appropriate remuneration (especially if the violation was committed in the course of business activity). What does the cryptic phrase "adequate remuneration" mean? Nothing else but the amount that would have to be paid to be able to use a given work, e.g. the cost of a license. Just think how much are the licenses for the use of certain computer programs. The sums turn out to be huge. And if one takes into account the provision ordering to spend the obtained benefits, withdraw from the market or destroy what was produced using a work to which you had no rights (e.g. a computer program) and if the infringement was committed by the entrepreneur, the consequences may be him really severe.

Moreover, one should not forget about possible criminal liability provided for in the Act: a fine, restriction of liberty or imprisonment up to a maximum of 5 years (depending on the crime committed).

Although the restrictiveness of the above-mentioned regulations is exceptional and therefore highly criticized, especially nowadays, it does not mean that you do not have to comply with these regulations.