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At issue: assessing ownership of entertainment work product

The acknowledgment that intellectual property -- whether a copyright, trademark or patent -- belongs to "A" and not to "B" can be a very big deal, of course. The owner has the right to profit (either through use or from another's licensed use) from a creative spark, mark or process, whether in music, theater, business or any other industry.

Sometimes it can be exceedingly easy to tell who commands intellectual property rights and who doesn't.

In other instances, though, making that determination can be a bit fuzzy. And, often, acrimony ensues when intellectual property becomes a matter of contention.

Let's talk television star Stephen Colbert for a moment, who is currently under a spotlight (concededly, where he normally likes to be) in a spat with officials from Comedy Central, where his long-time show The Colbert Report was once a popular fixture.

Colbert employed and made famous on that show what a recent story on creative property and its ownership calls a "blowhard conservative character."

He dusted off that persona the past couple weeks in high-profile shows covering the Republican and Democratic conventions.

And then got threatened by his ex-employer for intellectual property misappropriation.

A recent CNN report on the spat calls Comedy Central's action "provocative and hostile," stating that it sends a signal to entertainers that "you bring your talents here at the risk of seeing them appropriated."

The same thing happened with David Letterman years ago when he left NBC for CBS. Executives from the former network claimed ownership of things like Letterman's instantly known "Top 10 List" and other comedy bits. The matter stopped short of litigation.

The status of the Comedy Central/ Colbert fray seems a bit unclear presently. If it unfolds with material details to report, we shall be sure to pass them along to readers.

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