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Entrepreneurial Law Research

This guide provides an overview of legal resources and tools for researching entrepreneurial law at UNC School of Law.

Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurial Law

One major legal concern common to start-ups and non-profits is intellectual property (IP). Though not every entrepreneurial entity may deal with IP issues, many will need legal assistance with trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP concerns. Conducting legal research in this field parallels legal research in other fields in many ways; researchers will want to consult a variety of secondary sources and primary law. The primary law will include statutes, regulations, and cases, as well as supporting documentation like guidance materials from regulatory agencies. There are a number of publications specifically directed towards IP, including specialized treatises, toolkits on legal research databases, and free web resources provided by governments or by non-profits that assist other non-profits. This section of the Entrepreneurial Law Guide provides links to various types of secondary sources, primary law, and government assistance available to researchers, which will identify multiple source options for locating and searching within this material.

IP Toolkits

Several legal databases have toolkits, check lists, and other helpful guidance material for researching IP. Some recommended materials include:

  • Bloomberg-BNA Intellectual Property Law Resource Center (available to UNC Community) provides access to several prominent treatises on patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret law; several current-awareness services, including Patent, Trademark & Copyright Law Daily and Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal, and the U.S. Patent Quarterly, a reporter of U.S. intellectual property caselaw.
  • Bloomberg Law Practice Centers (accessible to UNC Law Community with username/password), provides access to  practice pages on Patent, Trademark, Copyright, Trade Secrets, Privacy, Data Security, and Tech & Telecom that include specialized treatises, practice guides, email current-awareness tools, access to specialized search tools for finding registrations for patents and trademarks, and a full collection of primary law, including relevant statutes, caselaw, regulations, and decisions from administrative divisions of the USPTO and the International Trade Commission.
  • HeinOnline Intellectual Property Law Collection (available to UNC Community) provides access to legislative histories, treatises, documents, classics, and more relating to copyrights, patents, and trademarks, this collection allows researchers to search across all intellectual property law materials in one database. Notable titles include: Legislative History of the 1909 Copyright Act (1976), Kamenstein Legislative History Project: A Compendium and Analytical Index of Materials Leading to the Copyright Act of 1976, and William Robinson's Law of Patents for Useful Inventions. Also includes copies of the relevant statutory and regulatory titles.
  • Lexis+ Intellectual Property and Technology Center (accessible to the UNC Law Community with username/password) provides access to resource kits, topics and tasks, and tools and resources covering a wide variety of IP and tech issues, including advertising and marketing, e-commerce, media and entertainment, rights and publicity, trade secrets, and more. These resources provide access to relevant primary law as well as secondary sources and practical guidance on IP and tech.
  • Westlaw Practical Law Intellectual Property & Technology Center (accessible to the UNC Law Community with username/password) provides access to practice notes, standard document and clauses, checklists, toolkits, state-specific resources, news, secondary source, and more.

Patents

The United States' patent laws are codified in Title 35 of the United States Code. The text of the Act, including amendments, is available online in a number of places, including freely from the U.S. Government Publishing Office and from the Cornell Legal Information Institute. Title 35 has been enacted by Congress as a positive law title, meaning that this U.S. Code title is legal evidence of the law (read more about the distinction between positive law and non-positive law titles here).

USPTO Resources

Through its website,  USPTO publishes a number of extremely useful resources for both individuals and lawyers practicing in this area. Among the most useful are:

Patent Trial and Appeal Board

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is housed within the USPTO. Its duties review of adverse decisions, review of appeals of reexaminations, derivation proceedings, inter partes and post-grant reviews, and rendering decisions on interferences.Through its website you can find: 

In addition to the law governing patent application and enforcement, it is also important to be able to find and research patents themselves. Researching prior patents can be a complex process; it is not unusual to pay significant search fees. The following sources can help you locate and research patent history: 

More information on patent research can be found in our research guide on intellectual property.

Copyright

The United States Copyright Act is codified in Title 17 of the United States Code. The text of the Act, including amendments, is available online in a number of places, including freely from the U.S. Government Publishing Office, the U.S. Copyright Office, and from the Cornell Legal Information Institute. Title 17 has been enacted by Congress as a positive law title, meaning that this U.S. Code title is legal evidence of the law (read more about the distinction between positive law and non-positive law titles here).

U.S. Copyright Office

Although not carrying the force of law, the U.S. Copyright Office maintains several helpful guidance documents and explanatory publications to help practitioners and the public understand how the copyright office functions and how copyright law applies.

Searching for Copyright Records

Unlike patents, copyright interests need not be registered or recorded to take effect. However, registration carries significant benefits for copyright owners (for example, access to substantial statutory damage awards in the case of a successful copyright infringement lawsuit) and so many commercial works and other important works are registered with Copyright Office. Full records for older works are not yet available online, but below are some good sources for information about registration records:

More information on copyright research can be found in our research guide on intellectual property.

Trademarks

The Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq.)

Federal trademark law in the United States traces its roots to the Lanham Act, a law enacted in 1946 to provide for trademark protection, and to protect from trademark dilution and false advertising.  As its placement in Title 15 (on Trade and Commerce) indicates, federal trademark law focuses directly on the impact of trademarks on the facilitation of trade and their impact on consumers. The text of the Act, including amendments, is available online in a number of places, including freely from the U.S. Government Publishing Office, or the Cornell Legal Information Institute.

USPTO Resources

Through its website,  the USPTO publishes a number of useful resources for both individuals and lawyers whose practice addresses trademarks. These include: 

Searching for Trademarks

At the federal level, trademarks are registered with the USPTO.  Among other things, the USPTO reviews applications and accompanying materials (all applications require some representation of the mark) and assesses the application's compatibility with federal trademark law and USPTO classification guidelines

More information on trademark research can be found in our research guide on intellectual property.