A Quick Introduction to Copyright, Trademark and Patents.
If you create something, anything, you should have a rudimentary understanding on how to protect your stuff, your ideas . . . your gold. No, literally your idea is golden, and could be worth a lot of money! The first thing you should do after writing it down, is protect it.
A simple name could gain you a life-time of wealth. Did you know, that after the 50th Anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death, her name and "brand" (that's a marketing term for "identity" for you and me) is still worth millions today? Companies like Authentic Brands spend tens of millions of dollars (that's $10,000,000+ to you and me) to acquire famous people's identities and rights to use their likeness! You can read the article about Marilyn Monroe's brand here.
So, if you are a daydreamer that's great . . . dream. If you are an inventor, that's great invent. If you are a creator, then do your thing! But, make sure your stuff is attributed to you and no one else. Here was what I've found about the topics of Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents.
So, here is what you need to know in a nutshell. All three "intellectual property" classes are registered with a federal agency. They give the creator "exclusive rights," which means that the owner/creator has the rights to earn money or use the item, and most importantly -- prevent anyone else from using or profitting from the creation.
Here's the difference between the three:
Copyright = someone's original idea in recorded fashion. It can be in writing, computer code (program), lyrics, photographs, recordings. A copyright is automatic and placing the copyright symbol (c) and "All Rights Reserved" on the item is enough to protect your work. But it's best to register your copyright with the Library of Congress - http://www.copyright.gov. Copyrights can and do expire after a lifetime+ 70 years.
Patent = are for inventions. The invention must be different from anything else (or at least have components that are different from anything else). It must be useful and can't be obvious. One must register the patent with the Patent & Trademark Office - http://www.uspto.gov/patents/ to gain full protection. However, it can take up to 6 years to get an invention registered and can cost over $10,000. Patents can be sold as an asset (like a house or stock). A patent is only good for 20 years.
Trademarks = are for identity or brand protections - basically, it protects the identity of a company, service or product. A trademark describes something, but is not the actual something. It can be a word, name, symbol or device used to identify something. Many say that you don't have to register a trademark, just attaching a TM symbol next to the mark gives you "common law" rights. However, one must register a trademark to gain full legal protection. It costs around $350 to register a trademark and can take from 6 months to a year to fully process. Register a Trademark or Servicemark at http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/. They can be renewed, so technically a trademark can live on forever and never expire. Good news for Coca-Cola right?
Seriously, people make great money copyrighting, trademarking and patenting . . . An example from an article entitled: 5 Everyday Things You Won't Believe Are Copyrighted:
"The most famous case is sports announcer Michael Buffer, who currently makes more money from his phrase "Let's get ready to rumble" than he does from actually announcing boxers and letting them know that there might be rumbling. He's reportedly made $400 million by licensing his phrase to movies, commercials, video games and such."
Can you believe that! That could be YOU.
I'm only outlining a quick introduction to this topic because I think it's important that (in your goal for financial freedom) you know about these tools that can help you. It's important because these very tools can help you make a profit from your ideas and hard work and protect your ideas and hard work which will allow your family, for generations, to benefit from your hard work.
Please, please people. If you create something, invent something, work hard to develop something; you should look into and use any of these three protections before you present any of your work (in whatever form it may be) to another individual or to the public in general. Protect yourself, you'll be so glad you did!
For more information on copyrighting, trademarking and patenting your stuff, I'm listing a whole bunch of resources below. Please, bookmark this page and refer to it often. I want us all to live happy, prosperous lives with well protected ideas that will afford generations of success.
UPDATE: Read Arthur Frommer gets his brand name back from Google. And see what can happen if you don't protect your work and your brand. Very good article that illustrates exactly what this article is about. Protect your ideas people!
Good luck and remember, I'm counting on YOU to become prosperous because I've always wanted influential friends in powerful and rich places.
The Information You Need:
Patents, Copyrights & Trademarks For Dummies Cheat Sheet
About.com Intellectual Property
LegalZoom Intellectual Property Page
Nolo Press Patent, Copyright & Trademark Do It Yourself
Ipl2 (The Internet Library)
Protect your gold!
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