As an attorney who focuses on intellectual property law matters, I encounter many individuals who generally have the same question: "When should I register my copyright, trademark, or patent?" The answer is now! It is never too soon to engage in the necessary steps to protect your creative works. As soon as you create an idea and are serious about presenting your work to the public, certain legal steps should be taken.
During my initial consultation with startup business owners, songwriters, and producers, I learn that many of them have not yet registered their respective intellectual property (i.e. copyright, trademark, or patent). The concept of intellectual property can be overwhelming so below is a brief explanation of the different types of protection many individuals may need to protect their respective work.
• A copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing and is issued by the United States Copyright Office. For example, a songwriter or producer can copyright their work so that they would have the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.
• A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device which is used in trade with goods or services to indicate the source of the goods or services and to distinguish them from the goods or services of others. A trademark is issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but these rights do not prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark.
• A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. A patent owner has the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing their specific invention.
Proper federal registration of intellectual property is beneficial because it provides the owner with the right to sue for particular damages in the event that the intellectual property owner's copyright, trademark, or patent is infringed upon after federal registration.
When you seek to protect your intellectual property, search for the proper resources to ask any questions that you may have. When registering any form of intellectual property, it is best to seek local counsel who specializes in your specific area of interest-- for example, consult an attorney who specializes in copyright law to assist you in filing a federal copyright registration which includes the most recent songs that you have written. In the end, taking the necessary legal steps during the initial stages of the creative process will give you the proper foundation to grow and become the innovator that this world needs.