Intellectual Property in an Age of Open Source and Anonymity

Intellectual Property in an Age of Open Source and Anonymity

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-543-8.ch003
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Current intellectual property (IP) laws are under scrutiny. The increased connectivity and sharing capabilities afforded by social networking Web 2.0 tools have added new dimensions and challenges to different sectors of society, including businesses and educational systems alike. This chapter explores why current laws do not meet the needs of a changing global community and probes into options afforded by Open Educational Resources (OER).
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  • Define intellectual property in the digital age.

  • Identify global policy makers and legal boundaries for intellectual property in cyber space.

  • Discuss the ramifications of intellectual property breaches in a global community that is connected and shares just about everything.

  • Discuss the potential and constraints of Open Educational Resources (OER) and the impact of new technologies on intellectual property.

  • Characterize learner equity online and the challenges of collaboration and connectivity.



Intellectual property can be defined as an original work that is created in a tangible medium of expression. Often referred to as ideas or collections of ideas, intellectual property is the result of cognitive processes and is characterized by nonphysical properties (Moore, 2004). Generally thought to include trademarks, patents and copyrights, intellectual property protects the rights of the inventor or author to their work.

Trademarks can be a slogan, symbol or a mark that a business uses to identify and distinguish their products or operations, hence making it part of their branding strategy. It can be a graphic, logo, name, word or other means. Once a trademark is established, it is exclusive to the owners and others cannot use or imitate it. Many well-known trademarks conjure up images instantly. Trademarks are vitally important to companies and their effort to brand their products and maintain brand loyalty. When the Nike® trademark is envisioned, the “swoosh” instantly comes to mind. When the Golden Arches are mentioned, McDonald’s® is visualized and for Morton® Salt it is the little girl with the umbrella that is conjured up. Trademarks are good for 10 years and may be renewed in 10-year increments (Brown & Sukys, 1998). Trademarks online are especially powerful because they provide visual familiarity. Traditionally regulated by both state and federal laws, trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The ® symbol indicates that a trademark is registered in the United States.

Inventions can be produced and sold only under exclusive patents. Inventors can patent processes, articles of manufacturing or a composition of matter like a pharmaceutical or drug from being copied or manufactured by another company. To receive a patent, the device or process must be new and previously unknown. It must also be useful and not obvious to ordinary people in the business. Patents are good for 17 years.

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