Protecting your intellectual property can be confusing. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are all separate areas of the law that apply to protecting different kinds of works. In fact some types of properties, like graphic designs developed for business branding, can be protected under both copyright and trademark laws. Generally speaking, copyrights cover works of authorship; trademarks cover branding, and patents cover inventions. And copyright law protects a number of separate rights in a given work. This happens frequently in the music business when composition rights may be retained by the composer while the record label may own the right to the recording.
These complications make resolving the specifics of a given relationship in the creative fields a must to prevent potential disagreements later. “If collaborators don’t specify ownership, you invite a variety of potential claims and disputes. Sorting out who owns which rights can be complicated – and expensive if litigation is involved,” says Henderson.
Determining who owns the intellectual property you develop is a priority for creative businesses. Whether you create original work as part of a group or if your services are contracted, it is important to clarify ownership prior to the start of the project. Next, put that arrangement into a written contract to ensure your copyright claim. While a handshake may be your preferred method for agreements, people often hear and remember things differently. Getting things in writing is always the best practice.
And your brand matters. From the moment you begin using it, you are acquiring trademark rights in the brand. As a source indicator, just registering it with the North Carolina Secretary of State is typically insufficient. You don’t have to register your trademarks with the United Patent and Trademark Office to have trademark rights, but registration affords you significant enhanced protections that make enforcing those rights less complicated.
To learn more about the world of copyright and intellectual property, join us for the Swerve meetup on Thursday, April 21st with speaker Harris Henderson of Kilpatrick Townsend. This program is free for Swerve members and $20 for non-members. Lunch is provided. Registration is required. Please register by April 19th .