If you are a business owner or entrepreneur (e.g., coach, author, consultant, speaker), you have lots of ideas, which means you need to know how to protect your intellectual property. This is especially true if you have turned those ideas into a profit-generating enterprise. In other words, you have created property with your mind. This “intellectual” property (IP) has unlimited revenue-generating potential when it is put in a tangible format (e.g., book, photo, recording, poem, business system, course, recipe) and protected. If you do not recognize the value of your creative work (i.e., your IP) and if you do not know how to protect your business from intellectual property infringement, you may never enjoy the fruits of your labor or the fulfillment of your dreams.
Why is intellectual property protection important?
Dolly Parton and Robert Johnson’s business experiences show how important it is to know how to protect your intellectual property. Dolly Parton wrote the song “I Will Always Love You” in 1973 and recorded it as a country ballad. The song became a hit, reaching No. 1 on the country charts. Whitney Houston performed a cover of it in 1992 for the soundtrack to the film “The Bodyguard.” Houston’s version of the song became a massive international hit, topping charts around the world and selling millions of copies. Because Parton wrote the song and owned the copyright to it, she was able to benefit financially from the success of Houston’s version.
Parton earned royalties every time the song was played on the radio, sold as a recording, or used in a movie or TV show. This provided her with a steady stream of income, even decades after she first wrote and recorded the song. In other words, owning the copyright to “I Will Always Love You” (her intellectual property) allowed Parton to benefit financially and artistically from the success of the song. Indeed, Ms. Parton knew the importance of intellectual property protection.
In contrast, consider the example of Robert Johnson. Johnson was a legendary blues guitarist and singer. He is known as “the King of the Delta Blues.” Although an early death at 27 ended his career, Johnson had a tremendous influence. Other musicians covered his songs after his passing, and they made sizable profits from doing so. For example, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin are among the artists and bands who covered his music. In the 1990s, Columbia Records released a compilation of Johnson’s music. The album sold more than two million copies and won a Grammy for best historical album. In 1994, Johnson’s likeness was put on a United States postage stamp, memorializing him as a national hero.
Unfortunately, Johnson did not copyright his music through intellectual property protection. Thus, his work suffered the effects of intellectual property infringement. Consequently, he did not receive royalties for his songs during his lifetime.
Understanding intellectual property protection: A deep dive
The purpose of this article is to facilitate your ability to emulate the entrepreneurial mindset of Dolly Parton rather than that of Robert Johnson. I want you to understand key concepts related to protecting your business ideas and products. Indeed, if you are a business owner, time is a valuable resource, and so are your ideas. This article aims to help you understand the importance of intellectual property protection and how to prevent intellectual property infringement.
1. The history of Copyright Law
The Founding Fathers of America, while writing the United States Constitution, acknowledged that the work product of authors and writers deserves legal protection. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts,” by securing to authors and inventors, for a limited time, the exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries. This law continues to offer protections for the creative legal interests of writers, authors, and speakers today. On January 1, 1978, the year Congress took full control of this area of law (copyright), the Copyright Act of 1976 took effect. This basically means that we enjoy ONE national copyright law.
2. Critical definitions:
This is a term that has come to mean “originator.” Congress, through legislation, court decisions, and interpretations by legislators, has defined and redefined the term author. Basically, the first person to put in writing or in any fixed or tangible form an intellectual thought or idea is considered to be the author. However, the key factor that must be proven when a lawsuit is filed is whether or not the infringed work is original.
Copyright law protects “writings,” according to the Copyright Clause.
The law has come to define “writings” as works of art, photographs, motion pictures, recorded television programs, and other expressions of original ideas placed into a fixed and tangible form that contain some form of independent intellectual labor. Any and all of these works are not classified as writings and can be copyrighted.
3. Intellectual Property:
A commercially valuable product of the human intellect, in a concrete or abstract form, the category comprises primarily trademark, copyright, and patent rights, but also includes trade-secret rights, publicity rights, moral rights and rights against unfair competition.
Your writings are the result of your intelligence and can be a source of income if they are packaged and presented well. Because of this, this valuable property should be protected by the law just like your computer, home, or car. Thus, you need to plan and take action regarding intellectual property protection.
4. Copyright Interest:
A copyright is a bundle of rights, including publishing rights, film rights, digital rights, etc.
In fact, a copyright is a type of intellectual property, which is property that was made with the mind, spirit, or intellect, not with the hands. The interest that an author has in her manuscript, that a photographer has in his photos, or that a filmmaker has in her movie are their copyright interests.
5. Protection and security rights of authors
The copyright laws passed by Congress, under the Copyright Clause, “secured” certain rights to the author. This means that other people are limited, or that they can’t use your work without permission. If they don’t get permission, you can possibly bring a claim for copyright infringement and be paid money for damages.
6. What you can do with your copyright interest
The interest in intellectual property (copyright) is the same as in real or personal property. Your copyright interest in your book can be:
Sold: You can sell it just like you can sell your house.
Assigned: You can do a written transfer and assign your copyright interest to someone else.
Licensed: A limited time of use
Executed via will: bequeathed or given in a will to someone: You can will the property to a family member.
Give away: Give it away for FREE.
7. The Duration of Copyright
The life of the author plus 70 years is the general rule for copyright law protection. If there is more than one author, then it’s for the life of the last living author plus 70 years. Either way, this is a long time before being given exclusive property rights.
Conclusion: How to protect intellectual property
If you are truly serious about building wealth, creating passive income, and making money while you sleep (and that includes sleeping in your grave), then you cannot neglect intellectual property protection for its financial potential. You must think about how to protect your business as soon as you start it.
Remember, don’t neglect P. R. O. T. E. C. T.: