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Boston University School of Law




The four primary bodies of intellectual property law—patent law, copyright law, trademark law, and the law of trade secrets—address the question of duration in different ways. Trade secrets have no fixed duration; the law protects against misappropriation as long as the relevant information remains secret. Trademark protection lasts as long as the mark retains its capacity to distinguish the goods or services it is attached to. In patent law—my primary area of scholarship—duration is fixed, finite, and generally straightforward to determine: you get twenty years from the date you file your patent application. Copyright duration, by contrast, varies depending on the rather glum circumstance of when the author dies: under U.S. law, most copyrights expire seventy years after the author expires.



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