People often ask me how they can protect their work. There is a lot of confusion about what form of protection is appropriate. When should you use copyright? And what exactly is a patent or trademark? Here’s a quick summation:
BOOKS & IMAGES = COPYRIGHT / ISBN
- A book or an image is copyrightable.
- It is copyrighted the minute the book or image is produced.
- In order to prove you own it, you should register it, otherwise, you may lose in a court battle.
- Copyright is a form of protection provided by U.S. law to the authors of “original works of authorship” fixed in any tangible medium of expression. The manner and medium of fixation are virtually unlimited. Creative expression may be captured in words, numbers, notes, sounds, pictures, or any symbolic media. The subject matter of copyright is extremely broad, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, audiovisual, and architectural works. Copyright protection is available to both published and unpublished works.
- There is one more way to protect a book or magazine: with a unique number called an ISBN. In fact, you may not need to register your copyright at all if you buy and assign an ISBN to your book. (I coach my clients who want to publish through this process.)
INVENTIONS = PATENT
- Inventions can be protected with a patent
- Register the patent with the patent office with drawings of your idea
- A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.
BUSINESS NAME / BRAND = TRADEMARK
- Protect your brand with a trademark.
- Register your trade (product or service) with a visible rendition of the trademark (text logo)
- A trademark is a brand name. A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services. Although federal registration of a mark is not mandatory, it has several advantages, including notice to the public of the registrant’s claim of ownership of the mark, a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration.
Trademark, Patent, or Copyright?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. The term “trademark” is often used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.
Must all marks be registered? No, but federal registration has several advantages, including a notice to the public of the registrant’s claim of ownership of the mark, a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods or services set forth in the registration.
A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.
Copyright protects works of authorship, such as writings, music, and works of art that have been tangibly expressed
The Trademark Operation of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) handles trademarks only. For information on patents, please visit Patents or contact 800-786-9199. For information on copyrights, please contact the U.S. Copyright Office (a division of the Library of Congress).