Creative, inventive people can sometimes be so prolific they forget to properly protect their assets. Thankfully, it’s usually very easy to file for the proper protection, even if the paperwork is a bit dull. Moreover, there is automatic protection that kicks in for copyright-able materials the moment they are completed, helping to give some authority back to the artist.
In this article we’ll talk about the different kinds of protection your ideas, words, drawings, inventions and more are entitled to, as well as the steps you need to take for that protection.
“Copyright” is the right to reproduce, in exact or derived form, an original piece of authored work. When a piece is created, the original author holds the copyright to it. From there, the author determines who else has permission to use that copyright.
The following is a small list of works covered by copyright to give you an idea:
- Written works like biographies, novels, and manuals.
- Visual art like paintings, photographs, and sculptures
- Musical work like sound recordings and compositions.
Registering your copyright has a few advantages, most of which come into play if your copyright is ever violated. First, you must certify your copyright before suing anyone for infringement. Certifying your copyright before anything happens means you can collect legal fees and statutory damages during a dispute.
Still, you don’t have to register your copyright to use a copyright notice on your work. Feel free to publish and place copyright notice on all your original works, so long as you know a legal battle will require registration and certification, and that the earlier you register, the more likely you are to receive additional compensation.
Trademarks are used to protect the marks that distinguish the source of goods and services. Typically used by businesses, eligible works for trademark protection include:
- Words and phrases associated with a source (brand)
Service marks are sometimes referred to when dealing with service oriented businesses, but are treated almost identically to trademarks, which apply to suppliers of goods.
The road to obtain trademark protection is tricky; in order for it to qualify, your material must have attained a secondary meaning, the way Apple’s apple logo makes you think of computers instead of fruit. Basically, you will have to build a trademark before it become eligible to register, but if you are the first to use the material, you will have limited priority to use it until it is properly registered.
Do you think you’re already a victim of trademark infringement? You will need a trademark infringement damages expert to review your case and get the best result for you in court. Remember to register as early as possible for maximum protection.
Intellectual property which doesn’t fall into the previous two categories can be covered by patents, which protect inventions and processes. In the US, the two most common forms of patent are:
- Utility: These patents are given to the original inventors of novel machines, processes, article of manufacture, etc. Significant improvements on existing inventions can also be patented. These patents last 20 years from their filing date.
- Design: These patents protect the visual appeal of an article, including its shape, configuration and surface ornamental design. They last 14 years from the day they are granted.
It can sometimes take the patent office a long time to give you a response. The average first-response time for a utility patent is 18 months, and over 30 months before it’s all finished.
An alternative to getting a patent for your invention is to apply for trade secret status. Trade secrets are not released to the public, so the specifics of your invention cannot be studied by competitors or consumers. It’s not the right choice for every business, but is useful when a patent is too transparent.
Your intellectual property should be protected just like everything else of value in your life. Don’t wait until it’s too late to file for the proper IP protection on your valuable commercial or personal assets.