The Essentials of Trade Secrets and the Moral rights of Artists


Trade Secrets

In today’s complex industrial world the process of product design and development is an intensely competitive one. Competing companies may be racing to develop a particular new process or product. Before intellectual property can be patented or otherwise protected, the ongoing research and development efforts generate a work product that enjoys its own protection.

Industrial espionage involving the specific invasion of ongoing research, defection of key employees with secret information, and a variety of other issues provide the basis for considerable litigation over these trade secrets.

Although much of this trade-secret litigation is conducted by law firms that practice in the areas of trademark, copyright, and patent law, it may full to other firms involved in general litigation as well.

Moral Right of Artists

A final category of intellectual property involves what has been called the moral rights of artists. One may create a painting or sculpture or other work of art and may be able to copyright or sell his or her interest in the work to another.

What happens when the successor in interest to a work of art no longer wants it, or wishes to alter it? And what happens if an artist throws away a piece considering it unworthy of his or her signature and it is picked up by someone else and held out as the genuine thing?

An artist at work

Issues such as these go beyond the ordinary scope of copyright law.

In Europe, an artist’s right to the integrity of his or her work has been described as a moral right. The idea of moral rights of artists has been very slow to catch on in the United States. Here, if I should buy the Mona Lisa for display in my living room and decide that she would look better with a moustache, I would be able to paint a moustache on her because I own the painting.

If I owned the Sistine Chapel and decided that it needed a new modern whitewashed look without all those musty murals, I might paint it over. No matter what da Vinci or Michaelangelo might say (where they alive, of course). No matter what enhanced value of artwork might possess. Increasingly, however, courts are beginning to protect the integrity of artwork in this country.

Although artists may not be able to preclude the sale, distribution, or reproduction of their work, they may be able to prevent its alteration or destruction. Look or this area of intellectual properly law to gain increasing prominence in the years ahead.