Protect Your Art
“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
-United States Constitution, article I, section 8
The Intellectual Property Clause of the United States Constitution is found in Article I, section 8. That predates the Bill of Rights!
Encouraging the development of new ideas in the Arts and Sciences was considered by our founding fathers to be a foundational element of a free society. However, this protection of individualism is balanced against the public good that comes from sharing all these innovations. Thus, intellectual property rights over your creations are for a finite amount of time, and then your contribution becomes part of the public sphere.
What is a copyright?
A copyright protects the exclusive rights of the creator of an original work, including the ability to publish, distribute and adapt their work. Copyright applies to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete. Several classifications of works are specified under the copyright statutes and include, but are not limited to, literary works, dramatic works, musical works, including music and lyrics, computer programs, video recordings, and artistic expressions.
How do I get one?
A copyright is already obtained the moment the expression is created and is able to be perceived by others. After creation of the copyrighted work, it may be registered by filing an appropriate copyright registration form with the United States Copyright Office in the Library of Congress.
What is a trademark or service mark?
A trademark relates to the identification of a product by name or symbol that is not descriptive of the product (calling your coffeehouse “The Coffeehouse” is not a valid trademark), and which is used in the streams of commerce to identify the source. Trademark rights are based on first use in commerce and will prevent others from selling similar products using the same name or symbol, or any confusingly similar name or symbol. A service mark is similar to a trademark except that it relates to the identification of a service performed rather than a product provided.
How do I get one?
When you open a business to sell a good or service, you choose a name. If the name selected is not descriptive of the business or the product, the name may function as a service mark or trademark. Beware, another business may have begun using the same or similar name earlier and would have priority to use the mark on its products or services. A trademark or service mark search should be undertaken to verify that the mark is not already in use. Once a favorable trademark availability report is obtained, the owner should register the mark with the appropriate state or with the United States Patent and Trademark Office if the mark is used in interstate commerce. Registration of a mark is achieved by filing a trademark or service mark application with the appropriate state/federal government agency.