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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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How To Protect Your Intellectual Property: A Guide For Creatives

 

One of the biggest areas for creative entrepreneurs is how to protect your intellectual property, I mean you're creative, you have ideas, you make things, you're not a lawyer, thank goodness! But you do need to be aware of what your rights are with regards to your intellectual property. This handy guide will step you through some of the basics. It's perfectly possible you may need a lawyer at some point of the start up phase but it's best to have a grounding in the basics before you get to that stage so that you can know what you want before you begin.

 

Writers, Musicians And Artists 

Artistic or creative pursuits will always need to be able to protect their work from copycat impressions leeching from their hard work. The correct vehicle for protecting art, music, literature, films etc would be copyright. Copyright is an automatic international right and as such doesn't require an application or legal process to obtain it, this also makes it more difficult to enforce. Copyright for Artists is important to be on top of both to ensure you don't breach copyright or be the victim of copyright theft, be aware of issues like “fair usage” being primarily for review purposes or that copyright expires 70 years after the creator's death rather than of the intellectual properties creation date. A good tip is to always mark your own work with the copyright symbol © and if you feel this has been breached then if you want to pursue it then take legal advice.

 

Branding, Logos and Business Ideas 

If you are looking at protecting a brand, logo or business then trademarking may be the best method of securing your intellectual property as it's tied directly to a physical brand, logo etc. There are various ways to obtain a trademark and various providers will charge hugely varying amounts to set these up, so do your research carefully, as getting a "free" trademark is possible although it's known as a 'common law' trademark which is limited in power and you should carefully decide if this offers you enough protection as this might only be applicable regionally or be more difficult to uphold. To get a full legal trademark could be up to $1,000 but be sure to get a fully qualified and respected trademark attorney.

 

Inventions, Products and Designs 

For inventions, products and designs then the most suitable vehicle for protection would be to obtain a patent to protect the unique features of your design or invention. It's important not to leave it too late to get a patent but at the same time, as this guide to getting a patent states, if you're just at the idea stage then it's a bit early however there is a Provisional Patent Application process that can be used at an earlier stage. Whatever you do be sure to enlist the services of a reputable service provider to ensure this is done correctly, otherwise you may be left unprotected.

 

All of this may sound daunting and intimidating but believe me it's better to get this sorted out now than trying to deal with the potential consequences later on.

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