As you stand at the gateway to a successful business venture, you’re sure to have a lot of ideas. Many will be original and completely unique to you. You’d hate to have someone steal them out from under your nose. Can you possibly protect these concepts from copycats and thieves?
The answer is yes, and it starts with a “C” in a circle.
Copyright Laws and Your California Business
A clear understanding of laws as they apply to your small business is vital for protecting your intellectual property. Now, some might view this as overkill. It is true that most small business owners have neither the desire nor the intent to steal from other companies. The majority of copyright violations amount to nothing more than honest mistakes. When and if it happens to you, however, you’re going to wish you had protection under the law.
What Small Business Owners Need to Protect
In general, copyright laws bestow an exclusive permission to publish, print, play or perform a specific instance of content or material. Applicable items can include:
- Movie clips
- Computer programs
- Marketing materials
The need for protection applies even more strongly to business owners who operate over the Internet. This is one venue in which piracy of your personal intellectual property can be simple, far-reaching and difficult to prove. Difficult, that is, unless you’ve taken the trouble to protect your creations through a registered copyright.
Most business owners need above all to protect their identifying brand. Your company’s logo, for example, tells the world who you are as a company. You will never want to see someone appropriating this for connection with an alien entity.
What Copyrights Do Not Protect
Despite the wide variety of works that fall under this protection, a number of things do not. That’s because while a copyright protects the expression of an idea, it does not protect the idea itself. If you dream up a new product but your concept never makes it to the drawing board, your brainchild is essentially up for grabs.
Copyright laws also fail to safeguard your company’s name, slogan or method of operation. For matters of this nature, you’ll need the protection of trademark or patent law instead.
How Small Business Owners Obtain a Copyright
Many are surprised to learn that as soon as a creative expression becomes fixed in some tangible form, copyright protection exists automatically. The qualifying instrument can be a paper copy, a taped performance, a CD or anything of that nature.
However, the mere existence of the copyright may not be enough. If you want it to have any clout, registration will be necessary. While United States law does not require it, copyright registration can confer some serious advantages if the holder should find his business involved in any infringement action. It will also be a necessity when filing an infringement lawsuit at the federal level.
Applying for Copyright Registration
When applying for copyright registration, you must submit to the U.S. Copyright Office the appropriate application form accompanied by a nonreturnable copy of the work you wish to register and a nonrefundable filing fee. The form you choose must correspond to the item under copyright. For example, you will need to select:
- Form CA when correcting or expanding upon previously submitted information.
- Form D-VH when registering a vessel hull design.
- Form URAA when registering restored works.
- Form GATT when registering works for which the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1944 restored the United States copyright.
- Form CON when you’ve run out of space on any of the preceding forms.
- Form RE when renewing a claim of copyright.
- Form RE/CON to continue Form RE on a subsequent page.
There are also more general forms and special forms for group submissions.
The length of time to process your request can vary. Nevertheless, when you do receive your registration certificate, you will note that its effective date corresponds to the date on which the office first received your submission. Once you have registered your copyright, this protection will be permanent.
Some business owners find that registering a copyright can be cumbersome and time-consuming. The aid of a copyright attorney can smooth the process for you. If you’d rather avoid the hassle, contact the offices of Odgers Law Group at 858-869-1114 for immediate assistance with your California company’s needs.