IP Goes Pop! You Can’t Do That – What IP Cannot Protect

Who holds the patent on gravity? Who collects the royalties for the speed of light? In this episode of IP Goes Pop! Volpe Koenig Shareholders and podcasts hosts, Michael Snyder and Joseph Gushue, explore what intellectual property (trade secrets, trademarks, patents and copyrights) cannot protect. Hint- some things excluded from IP protection include the Laws of Nature such as gravity, the speed of light and even Einstein’s theory of relativity E=MC2. Abstract ideas are another. But what other “can’t”s stand between you, your idea, and protections for it?

To set the table, this episode begins with a pop culture journey through famous “Can’t” songs and movies. Moving into the intellectual property segment of the show your hosts explore the question ‘Why can’t intellectual property rights protect everything?’

In some ways, in order to understand what you can protect you first need to learn what you cannot protect. Intellectual property rights are designed to protect concepts like ideas, inventions, creative works, processes and methods, formulas, brand names, and more. Intellectual property rights cannot be used to protect other concepts like mathematical algorithms and natural phenomenon. Also, with the possible exceptions of trade secrets (if kept secret) and trademarks (if continuously used), intellectual property rights are limited in scope and duration. In other words, after a patent, trademark or copyright expires or is abandoned, your intellectual property rights are no longer protected.

In this episode, you will learn some nuances of intellectual property law, such as legal reverse engineering and proper vs. improper means of acquiring a trade secret.

Michael and Joe break down some of the reasons why some ideas may be better suited for trademark, patent, or copyright protection instead of trade secret protection. If you’ve ever wanted to know what you can and cannot do in the IP world, this episode is for you!


02:43 “Can’t” Albums & Songs

  • U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer
  • You Can’t Do That – Beatles
  • Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon
  • Yacht Rock
    • Michael McDonald
  • Can’t Stand Losing You – Police
  • Can’t Hurry Love – Phil Collins (Cover)

06:30 “Can’t” Movies

09:11 Trade Secrets “Can’t”s….

19:35 Patents “Can’t”s… 

  • Laws of Nature
    • Discovered vs. Created Organisms
  • Mathematics
    • Formulas, number relationships
  • Abstract Ideas
    • Computer Interfacing for common activities

26:29 Trademarks “Can’t”s…

  • Trademarks can’t be disconnected from goods & services
  • Must be a “likelihood of confusion” for infringement
  • Dilution of Brand for “Famous Marks”

30:08 Copyright “Can’t”s…

  • Recipes and Formulas
  • Facts, Ideas, Concepts
  • Pulling things out of the Public Domain

32:51 Final Thoughts

  • Don’t do it alone!
  • Know the rules to break the rules


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