How to Copyright and Trademark Your Intellectual Property

illegal downloading lawsuitA copyright is a protection for original intellectual properties that can be fixed in tangible form. A copyright gives the owner exclusive rights to determine how their works are used. Only the author has the right to claim a copyright on their works.

What Can Be Copyrighted?

Literary works, artwork, music, choreography, movies and sculptures are amongst the things that can be copyrighted. Not everything can be copyrighted. For example, common knowledge ideas (i.e., evolution), and “sweat of the brow” efforts such as calendars, rulers, and phone books, cannot be copyrighted.

International Copyright Legalities

Copyrighted material is subject to the laws of the country in which it’s established. Most countries adhere to the terms of the 1971 Berne Convention. The Berne Convention determined that all works–with the exception of photography and film–have an automatic copyright of fifty years after the death of the author. Film has a copyright of fifty years after the first showing, while photography has twenty-five years from the date it is taken.

There are often treaties signed between countries regarding copyrights, and authorities are often willing to work with each other to maintain property rights.

Do I have To Register A Copyright For It To Be Protected?

Copyrights do not have to be registered; the moment a work is produced it is granted a copyright. However, if your work is ever stolen or infringed upon you must have it registered to pursue a legal action. It’s also not a bad idea to register work you wish to preserve from infringement–simply to have a record that it exists and that it is your original work.

It is fairly easy to register for a copyright, you can do it online or fill out a mail-in application. If you prefer to do the mail-in application, you must request the correct forms from the copyright office directly. Unfortunately, they’re not available online (at the time of this writing).

After completely filling out the forms, and finding out what fees are associated with registering, you can mail it in to the library of congress in Washington DC. An easier and cheaper way to go about this is to simply go to the official copyright website and proceed to fill out the necessary information and fees from there. This has added advantages of cheaper fees, quicker processing time, and online tracking to see how your copyright is coming along.

If you want to make sure you get the copyright registration done correctly the first time, use a lawyer. We’ve done tons of them and know exactly what to do to make sure everything is squared away. Imagine if you thought you had your work copyrighted, and come to find out you don’t?

Trademarks

A trademark is a service mark which includes any word, or name that is to be used to identify a company or corporation. A trademark is a non-tangible good or symbol which is used to distinguish one company from all other companies. Trademarks have to be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The trademark can then only be used by the company or person who registered it.

It is not always necessary to hire an attorney, but it is strongly advised, simply to ensure that all procedures and regulations are followed. One important thing to keep in mind is that the USPTO does not keep close tabs on who uses a mark, even if it has been registered. It is up to the holder of the trademark to make sure that violations are reported. Once a violation is reported, the USPTO can step in and ensure proper legal action is taken.

Do you need help with a copyright or trademark issue? Contact us today to get started.

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