Monday, August 13, 2012

Obtaining a Copyright Patent?

Middle school students in Dublin, Ohio, were profiled in The Columbus Dispatch because of their very cool invention---one that recently won them $250,000. The students entered the First Lego League contest designed to get kids excited about science and technology.

The group designed a special bar code for grocery items that must be kept cold for food safety reasons; when the food's temperature becomes too warm, causing bacteria to grow, ink gradually spreads to cover the bar code and renders it inoperable. In other words, stores using the bar code won't be able to sell food which could cause food-borne illness.

This may get you curious about food law generally, but I think the more interesting takeaway from the article relates to an example of legal inaccuracy in one of the paragraphs:
For now, the idea exists as a provisional patent and a computer simulation; winning the national prize required only a concept. But as one of two winners, the group has a deal with a company that helps create prototypes, market them to retailers and obtain copyright patents.
The thing is, there are copyrights and there are patents, but there are not copyright patents. For more on the distinction, consider this book from the law library or this explainer from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

So, if you're considering a career outside of law---perhaps as a consultant to or writer for TV shows or as a journalist---you can rest assured that your legal education will come in handy because you'll be able to accurately describe legal issues and jargon with confidence.