Contracts & Legal

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (IP) is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized and the corresponding fields of law.  Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. [1]

Instruction: DoD Instruction 5010.44 “Intellectual Property Acquisition and License”

Common types of Intellectual Property include: [1,2]

  • Copyrights: is an exclusive right to control the use, reproduction, display, performance, or creation of “derivative works.” Copyright applies to things like literary works, pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, sound recordings, musical compositions, and architectural drawings, as well as “performance” art like dances, choreography, and pantomimes. Common words, phrases, numbers, and facts cannot be copyrighted. Unlike patents, in which the owner’s exclusive rights come into existence only if a patent is granted by the PTO, since 1989 the author of a copyrightable work automatically owns the copyright at the time the work is created even without formal registration.
  • Trademarks: is a distinctive name (Coke), mark (Nike Swoosh), or motto (“It’s Miller time!”). A registered trademark is designated by the ® symbol; an unregistered trademark is indicated by the ™ symbol. The government generally has no interest in obtaining trademark rights.
  • Patents: is a monopoly over a unique, non-obvious process, mechanical device, article of manufacture, composition of matter, etc. In the U.S. patents are issued by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and are generally enforceable from the date of issuance through 20 years from the filing date.
  • Data: consist of the legal rights a contractor and/or the government have to use technology and software data. Technical data are recorded forms of information of a scientific or technical nature pertaining to products sold to the government. Product specifications, engineering drawings, and operating or maintenance manuals are examples of technical data. The term does not include computer software or financial, administrative, cost, pricing or other management data.
  • Industrial design rights: is a right that protects the visual design of objects that are not purely utilitarian. An industrial design consists of the creation of a shape, configuration or composition of pattern or color, or combination of pattern and color in three-dimensional form containing aesthetic value. An industrial design can be a two- or three-dimensional pattern used to produce a product, industrial commodity or handicraft.
  • Public Domain: describes the intellectual property that is freely available to everyone. Proof that something is already in the public domain is an absolute defense against the assertion of an exclusive IP right such as a patent or copyright.

Intellectual Property (IP) Main Questions

Intellectual Property law is a highly technical field. Fortunately, the IP issues DoD acquisition professionals are most likely to encounter generally derive from three (3) basic questions. These are: [2]

  1.  Who owns IP created by government employees in the course of their official duties?
  2.  Who owns IP created by a contractor in the course of a government contract?
  3.  What rights does the government have to technical data and computer software it receives from a contractor?

AcqLinks and References:

Updated: 7/30/2021

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