But that said, last year’s $7 million copyright infringement verdict against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for borrowing musical themes from soul singer Marvin Gaye’s work has had major repercussions on the industry’s practice of incorporating elements, features, themes, and even the “feel” and “mood” of other artists and genres. Just ask singer Sam Smith, who immediately after that verdict granted Tom Petty songwriting credit and royalties to Smith’s song “Stay With Me,” which bore some resemblance to Petty’s 1988 hit “I Won’t Back Down.”
IP issues — specifically music copyrights — have also percolated into politics. Just this week, Mike Huckabee disclosed that he paid $25,000 to settle copyright infringement charges for using the Survivor song “Eye of the Tiger” at a rally last year without permission. Last month, the Rolling Stones demanded that Donald Trump to stop playing their songs at his campaign rallies.
And in the sciences, experts say that as much as 80% of all the world’s technical knowledge is now contained only in patent documents. Woe be to any scientist or engineer who doesn’t know how to access and make use of this patent knowledge database.
From Silicon Valley startups to Fortune 500 board rooms, from MIT engineering labs to Wall Street trading desks, and from college business seminars to debates in Congress over global trade policy, intellectual property issues now drive many of the most important new developments in science, business, arts, and the professions today.
4. IP is the engine of business and professional growth and deal making.
If you’re a startup entrepreneur, patents will be vital to securing a venture capital funding deal. That’s what 67% of entrepreneurs said when surveyed in the Berkeley study Patenting by Entrepreneurs: An Empirical Study. Not surprisingly, while 40% of all startups held patents, 80% of those receiving venture investment owned patents.
And if you’re an executive at a larger firm, you won’t be able to cement joint ventures, acquisitions, or partnerships absent the scaffolding of clear-cut IP agreements between the parties.
As for those of you planning careers in the arts, sciences, or professions, your patents, copyrighted work, your professional publications, and published writings all comprise key elements of your personal “brand” that can often be even more important in unlocking new career opportunities than your resume or CV.
5. Intellectual property can enhance your career — but only if you learn the basics.
To be sure, the subtler details of intellectual property law can be confusing to the non-lawyer. But the basics of IP are hardly rocket science, and you’ll find plenty of resources online to bring you up to speed on the inner workings and impact of IP in your particular field.
These include the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s IP e-learning series as well as a variety of other sources (of varying quality) devoted to specific professions or career tracks. Without necessarily endorsing any online sources in particular, I found numerous sites for learning about IP in the arts, IP for small and medium-sized businesses, IP for educators, and even IP for gardeners and landscape designers.
Just search for “IP and …” the career or industry of your choice and you’ll find multiple sources online that provide relevant and useful IP information.
One especially good, one-stop source for IP learning is this series of 3-minute animated videos that answer such common questions as “Can I Patent That?”, “Is It Infringement or Fair Use?” and “What If Someone Infringes My Trademark?”
Here’s the bottom line: Any young person who doesn’t grasp at least the basics of intellectual property will find him or herself at a distinct disadvantage in the career world of tomorrow.