There are all sorts of weird anomalies that come up when you realize the boundaries between certain areas of intellectual property law can get pretty fuzzy. Take, for example, a recent ruling
in a case involving two toy companies, Lanard Toys and Novelty Inc. Lanard, a Chinese company, made knockoff toys of Novelty's offerings, including toy planes and helicopters. One of the issues was whether those toys were covered by copyright. Lanard argued they should not be, as copyright is only supposed to apply to non-useful items. The court, however, found that toys weren't actually useful (tell your kids!) and therefore could be covered by copyright. However, as Ray Dowd at the Copyright Litigation blog points out, this creates a bizarre situation
where the inventor of an actual airplane might only get 20 years protection via a patent... but the maker of a toy knockoff of that real airplane? Well, he can get life plus 70 (or whatever it might be going forward) for the toy. As Dowd notes:
It seems anomalous that the poor inventor who made the real thing gets only twenty years of protection, but the clown who made the silly imitative toy gets life plus forever protection for his "original work of authorship". Query whether such protection promotes the purposes of the Copyright Act.