Discussion

1. The terms for patents and copyrights are vastly different. Why do you think this might be so? Research the historical trend for copyright and patent terms in the United States. Are the trends similar or different? What factors might account for the similarities or differences in these trends?

2. Designs. The "Patents" section focused on "utility" patents, which protect inventions that are considered to be useful. In the United States, there is another class of patents, called "design" patents, which protect ornamental aspects of inventions. These are examined by patent examiners in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the same way as utility patents and are largely subject to the same kinds of prior-art restrictions. Many other countries have an intellectual-property doctrine that is completely separate from their patent systems and covers industrial designs. The protection that they provide roughly corresponds to the protection obtained with design patents in the United States.

Research the criteria for obtaining design protection in the United States and elsewhere. Compare the protection that those doctrines provide as an alternative to copyright protection. Factors that you may consider include the relative term lengths, the required level of formality in obtaining the protection, and the ease of proving infringement. Based on your understanding of the criteria, can you think of any examples of nanotechnology structures that are entitled to design protection but not copyright protection? What about examples that are entitled to copyright protection but not design protection?

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