How Creatives Protect their Intellectual Property

Whether it’s a new song or a ground-breaking invention, it is tempting to want to share your success with the world. While sharing your success is almost a knee-jerk reaction in today’s social media landscape, you may want to pump the breaks before doing so. Getting the right protections on your creations is essential to make sure you are the creative that profits from your ideas.


Unfortunately, there are individuals and companies in the marketplace with the sole mission of stealing other people’s work for a profit, so taking the right precautions is crucial. Depending on your work, you might want to get a patent or copyright to get a basic layer of legal protections, but it doesn’t stop there. While there is a lot of information and strategies to protect your work, here are some basics to keep your work safe.


The Types of IP and why they are Important


There are 4 types of IP, and depending on what category your works fall into, the path of protection and what protection means can vary.


Patents

Patents protect your work through a government office and grant you exclusive rights to your creation. These rights allow the owner to control who can reproduce, distribute, and sell your creation. The downside of patents is that through the process, you have to detail every part of your creation that makes it unique, thus, sharing with the world the intricacies of your work.


Trademarks

Trademarks are generally for names, symbols, logos, signs, and phrases. This is especially important for international brands like Coca-Cola or Nike, where the brand itself makes other products more valuable.


Copyrights

These are used to protect artistic works and media creations such as photography, paintings, videos, and songs. Similar to patents, copyrights give the owner control over the sale and distribution of the work, thus creating a system where the owner can sell the use or the copyright itself to earn income.


Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are the least common but still important for companies. These protections are often applied to formulas or information that pertains to a system that creates a competitive advantage. For example, Google’s search algorithm is a process that earns the company revenue and is a competitive advantage for Google itself.


Getting each of these protections can vary. For patents, trademarks, and copyrights, there is a corresponding office in the U.S. for each type where you can register your IP. Trade Secrets are the only form of IP that does not need to be registered.


Other Tips on Protecting your IP


While registering your work with the government and being the first to do so is the best legal way to protect your IP, publishing your work widely is also useful. If another company is using work similar to yours at a greater degree than you, they could potentially argue that they have the rights to the IP. While this matter can be tricky and lead to issues down the line, the best way to avoid this is to make sure the internet knows the work is yours. Reference your IP continuously on your website and social media pages and take other measures to make sure the public can readily understand you are the owner of your IP. This is the best method for trademarks and copyrights.


If you are trying to protect patents, the best way to protect these might be to keep them an absolute secret. Even the knowledge of your IP can be incredibly valuable to your competitors. If your competitors know what you’re trying to protect, they might try to copy it and you can lose your competitive advantage. In the technology industry especially, making sure only the people who need to know about certain projects is a must, even if that means keeping projects secret within your company.


What you Should Know Right Now


Understanding these basics of IP is important. Whether you’re a small business, entrepreneur, or social media influencer, understanding the different forms of IP can protect your work and even earn you income. It’s always better to do your research and even ask a professional than leave money on the table and potentially leave your creations exposed for competitors to steal.

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