There are 3 forms of legal protection you can explore: copyrights, trademarks, and patents.
This type of legal protection covers any of your artistic and musical ideas including but not limited to songs, paintings, photographs, and books. Copyright protection is put into place when an original piece of work is set into tangible form, meaning that you must be able to prove that you came up with the idea. Once this is accomplished, you have the legal right to produce your work.
If you live in the U.S., you’ll notice that there is no requirement to register your idea. However, if you do have it registered, there are benefits to doing this. Once registered, you have a public record of your copyright which can help you with any infringement claims.
The registration process is different according to the type of material created, but it always involves a processing fee and sending in a copy of your work. The copyright time varies too, but usually it lasts for the duration of the creator’s life plus an extra 70 years.
Trademarks apply to names, symbols, and words that identify and represent a company or a product. Similar to copyrights, you do not have to register your idea for protection. Also like copyrights, you get benefits if you do register your idea.
When you register, the public is aware that you own the mark. The law will then see that it is your idea and you gain the right to use the registered mark. This means that people cannot then use a similar mark to your own.
If you do decide to register your idea, it’s important that you get your application done professionally, particularly when registering for a trademark as it is more intricate. Getting approval of a trademark has been known to take months, even years.
Patents protect the inventor’s rights to their inventions. Inventions protected by patents can range from machines to plants. Unlike copyrights and trademarks, you must register your idea for protection. Getting a patent can be very time-consuming as it can take years to approve. It can also be very costly, with amounts going up to six figures.
While it may take years for your patent to be approved, you get protection as soon as you apply. A patent lasts for 20 years and you have the right to exclude others from making, selling, and using your invention in the U.S.
Some ideas may require that you have a combination of protection. Remember, if you ever run into an issue of dispute about your idea, ensure that you have early drafts of your idea and detailed records of the development of your idea to prove that it’s yours.