California businesses are currently able to protect most things they create through the nation's intellectual property laws. This body of law is highly complex and has developed since the country's founding. The face of this law is changing, as new ideas about ownership emerge with the ubiquitous nature of new technologies and the explosion of the Internet.
Currently, businesses are able to avail themselves of protections through the use of trademarks, copyrights or patents. Trademarks are used by companies to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Patents are used to protect new inventions or new features, and copyrights are used to protect both intangible and tangible works of art.
The Internet is known for users' theft and misappropriation of copyrighted and trademarked material, leading governments to provide harsh penalties for users who do so. Some companies believe that copyright and trademark law should be reformed in order to allow for certain types of creative use and innovation on the Internet. An increasing amount of intellectual property is being released via Creative Commons licenses, which are designed to provide greater freedom for the creative use of the property online. Business proponents believe that allowing creative use helps customers to more effectively engage with their intellectual property, leading to increased profits and revenues.
Businesses and individuals who believe they have been victims of online trademark or copyright infringment may want to consider whether the infringement actually harms or helps their bottom lines. It is always possible to request online users provide attribution to them as the owners of the copyrighted or trademarked material. If the infringement appears to be a harmful one, the owner may want to seek help from an intellectual property law attorney.