Protect Your Business Ideas

When you develop a new business idea and are trying to interest others in your plan it can be very stressful and nerve racking.  You have no idea how people will respond to your new business ideas.  A real danger to your new business is that someone else may steal your idea.  You need to take legal steps to protect your new business.

Following are three ways that can help prevent the stealing of your business proposal from happening.  The three categories are copyrights, trademarks and patents.

The copyright is a form of legal protection covering your literary, artistic and musical ideas whether printed, audio, or video, etc.  This includes items such as musical scores, paintings, photographs and books.  You can put the copyright protection in place when your original piece of work is put into tangible form. In order to copyright a piece of work you need to be able to prove that you came up with this original idea.

In the United States there is no requirement to register your idea for a copyright.  The symbol to designate an item has the copyright is a © in a circle, the year of the first publication and the name of the owner of the copyright.  Although it is not required to register your copyright in the U.S. there are advantages to having your copyright registered.  You will have a public record of your copyright which can help if you have any infringement claims.

There are different processes for registering your copyright depending on the type of material you created.  Regardless of the type material there will be a processing fee and you will need to send a copy of your work together with your application for the copyright.  The time for a copyright to remain in place can vary, however, it usually stays in place for the duration of the creator’s life plus an additional 70 years.

Trademarks are used for words, names or symbols that identify or represent a product or company.  Just as you do not need to register a copyright you do not have to register a trademark.  The mark for an unregistered trademark is “TM” in superscript.  Again, similar to the copyright you will receive benefits if you do register your trademark.  The mark for a registered trademark is R in a circle.

When you register your trademark the law will see that the idea belongs to you and you are the only one with the right to use this trademarked item.  Other people may not use a mark similar to your own.  Registering for a trademark can be intricate and so it is important that you have your application prepared professionally.  Getting approval for your trademark may take months or even years.

A patent protects the inventor’s right to their invention.  Unlike the copyright or trademark, you must register your idea in order to obtain the protection of a patent.  To obtain a patent can be very time consuming and very costly.  It may take years for your patent approval to be issued.  Even though it may take years for your patent to be approved, your protection starts as soon as you apply.  A patent lasts for 20 years.  In the United States with a patent you have the right to prevent others from using, making or selling your invention.

Some ideas may need more than one form of protection and may need a combination of a copyright, trademark and/or patent.  For your own protection keep the early drafts of your idea together with detailed records of the development of your idea.  These records will be valuable in proving the idea is yours in the event there is ever a dispute.