Following are some common traps in determining intellectual property rights, from Sharon K. Sandeen’s Intellectual Property Deskbook for the Business Lawyer (American Bar Association, 2008).
1. Ownership of a work of authorship (e.g., a painting or a book) does not include ownership of the copyrights.
2. Registered copyrights in pre-1978 works may exist even if a copyright registration certificate suggests they have expired.
3. Copyrighted works created after 1977 need not be registered in order for copyright protection to exist.
4. Although an author’s copyrights are transferable, the ownership of renewal and termination rights are regulated by law.
5. When determining the existence of intellectual property assets, be aware that in community property states, intellectual property assets may be treated as marital property.