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March 2004

Protecting Intellectual Property: Practical Resources on the Web

By Robert J. Ambrogi
With its ease of duplicating and delivering words, sounds, pictures and data, the Internet has spawned a sprawling industry among lawyers and regulators seeking to protect and define intellectual property rights in a digital age. And just as it is raising new questions for IP lawyers, it is also helping to answer them through an array of practical Web sites.

In a recent column, I reviewed some of the leading Web sites for searching patents and trademarks. This column samples some of the more general sites devoted to IP law and practice.

Laws, Cases and Treaties

The World Intellectual Property Organization, , is the U.N. agency responsible for the protection of intellectual property throughout the world. Its Web site provides background and texts of all major treaties and other forms of international IP protection. The site includes complete information on intellectual property in general, and on specific WIPO initiatives on dispute resolution, domain names, electronic commerce, biotechnology, and other current issues.

WIPO also maintains the Collection of Laws for Electronic Access, or CLEA, a database containing all national laws relating to intellectual property, all treaties administered by WIPO, and bibliographic data concerning each legislative text and treaty. While the bibliographic data is in English only, the laws and treaties are available in French and Spanish as well. The system is remarkably simple to use, with a search bar and menu of contents on the left and results displayed in the center.

Sponsored by Stanford University Libraries, Copyright and Fair Use is a useful collection of copyright law materials and links with a focus on primary source materials, including current legislation and recent cases. Of particular note is its case law section, which includes not only full text opinions, but, for some cases, briefs and analyses.

Decisions in domain-name disputes can be difficult to track down, published on various sites with no easy search mechanism. The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy Database, launched in 2003, offers a solution, providing free access to decisions issued in accordance with the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). As of this writing, the database includes nearly 7,000 decisions involving more than 11,000 domain names.

Practice Resources

All About Trademarks has one of the best collections of links to trademark resources, as well as some to general IP resources. Links are organized under general trademark resources, federal law and practice, state trademark laws, international trademark law, trademarks in Cyberspace, and trademark searching. Topping it all off are articles reviewing the basics of acquiring, protecting and using trademarks written by the site's host, Dallas, Texas, lawyer Gregory H. Guillot.

Created by Hopkins, Minn., lawyer Daniel A. Tysver, BitLaw has grown over the years from a compilation of legal resources related to computers and the Internet into a virtual online treatise on intellectual property and technology law. With over 1,800 pages covering patent, copyright, trademark and Internet law, the site is a combination of original essays and hyperlinked resources.

We are all familiar with the phrase, "All rights reserved." But what if an IP owner wants to reserve only some rights? This is the operating thesis of Creative Commons, a trailblazing project with roots in the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society. It allows creators to dedicate their work to the public domain or license it on terms more flexible than copyright, allowing certain uses on certain conditions.

Franklin Pierce Law Center's Intellectual Property Mall is a comprehensive, "one-stop shopping" site for links to IP resources on the Internet. Many of the links include thorough annotations, making them more useful than most. But links are not all you will find here. Among the varied resources are a library of faculty research papers on IP topics, a collection of IP moot court briefs from award-winning teams, federal IP jury instructions, copies of USPTO patent examinations, and a tutorial on patent searching via the Internet.

The who, what, where and how of European IP law and practice is the theme of the Intellectual Property Rights Helpdesk, a comprehensive site maintained by the European Community's Research and Development Information Service. The Helpdesk provides broad information on European IP law, with sections focusing on copyright, inventions, designs and other IP issues. It includes an extensive collection of practice guides and working papers.

The Law.com IP Law Practice Center is a part free, part subscription service providing news, court opinions, analysis and practice pointers. Its practice-specific news articles, updated daily, are gathered from American Lawyer Media's chain of national and state publications. IP case opinions are culled from the Supreme Court, all the federal circuit courts, and state appellate courts. Subscribers receive a weekly e-mail alert containing the latest news and cases.

Mayall's IP Links, from U.K. attorney John Mayall, may well be the best, most thorough collection of IP links, all thoroughly annotated. It includes links to the patent databases of virtually every country, to patent databases for specific technologies, to patent offices of many countries, and to non-patent prior art databases. Its trademark links are equally extensive. Most international IP laws covering patents, trademarks and copyrights are included, as are IP treaties and conventions.

Intellectual Property Law provides links to IP resources, forums for discussing IP issues, current IP news, and listings of IP jobs. Links are organized into separate pages for patent, copyright and trademark. The collection is somewhat cursory but includes most key sites. Forums are in bulletin board format and heavy with non-lawyers asking general IP questions. The news section is a grid allowing quick searches of online news sources such as Reuters and Google News.

The companion Web site to the magazine, IP Law & Business, is targeted to in-house legal professionals and outside attorneys responsible for protecting and managing corporate intellectual property assets. Published by American Lawyer Media, the site features selected stories from the magazine, as well as IP Watch, a daily selection of IP news stories.


The American Intellectual Property Law Association is a 10,000-member national bar association. Its Web site provides a range of information about IP law and practice, as well as general information about the association. The site includes a library of AIPLA's amicus briefs in various trademark and IP cases, and its testimony concerning various legislative and rulemaking initiatives.

Although it counts attorneys among its members, the Intellectual Property Owners Association is not a bar association, but a group of manufacturers, organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting the rights of IP owners. Highlighting its Web site is its daily news service - reports from the courts, Congress and elsewhere on developments in IP law and related issues. Another section, "IP in the Courts," pulls together in one location news reports of court rulings and the actual rulings.

The International Trademark Association, an international association of trademark owners and associated professionals, hosts a Web site that goes beyond the usual association fare of membership information, event listings and publication sales. While much of the site is directed at non-professionals, a section designated for lawyers includes the ITA's collection of amicus briefs and a guide to using ADR in trademark and unfair competition matters.

For the most part, the Web site of the American Bar Association's Intellectual Property Law Section is devoted to general information about the section, describing its committees, listing upcoming meetings, and housing a catalog of its publications. The section's Intellectual Property Newsletter is included in full text. A page on current legislation provides useful descriptions and analyses of bills pending before the U.S. Congress, and another section provides recent amicus briefs.

Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is author of The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web, the second edition of which is available through LawCatalog.com. E-mail him at rambrogi-at-legaline.com.


© 2005 Robert J. Ambrogi.