If you don't want to see your product on someone else's infomercial, then patent or copyright it. The type of protection depends on the product. A copyright is offered for original works of authorship, such as books, songs and computer programs. New product design and functionality are covered by patent law. A copyright privilege is extended as soon as a work of art is complete and can be formally registered at any time. A patent results from a detailed application process that often benefits from the expertise of a patent attorney.
Create an original work of authorship that can be read by a person or machine. Literary works, music, computer programs and architecture are eligible for protection from use by others without permission.
Place the letter "c" with a circle around it (or Copyright or Copr.) before the date of publication and then state the name of the owner. This formality is required for works published prior to March 1, 1989. Although not required after that date, it is still commonly used to identify ownership and mitigate claims by defendants in a lawsuit that "they did not know."
Submit an application to the U.S. Copyright Office to formally register a copyright. Fill out the application online or complete a paper copy, pay a fee and provide a copy of the work. Registration may occur at any time but must be in place before an infringement lawsuit is filed.
Invent a unique product. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), patents are available for any "new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof."
Hire a patent attorney. Although not required, an experienced attorney can navigate the USPTO system and ensure paperwork is properly completed. Since the filing process can be lengthy and costly, assistance from a trained professional may save time and money in the end.
Confirm that a patent does not already exist by searching the USPTO online database or the files at a public library designated as a Patent and Trademark Depository Library. Locations are listed on the USPTO website.
Match your product to one of three types of patents. A utility patent covers discoveries that operate in a new and useful way. A design patent overs the ornamental design and unique look of a product. A product that has a unique function and a unique design requires two separate patents. The third type of patent covers new plants.
Prepare and submit an application to the USPTO which includes a detailed drawing, a description of what makes the invention unique and affidavit of originality.
Use the term "patent pending" once the application is submitted when referring to the product.
Pay additional fees once the patent is approved and during the life of the patent to maintain it. A schedule of fees can be found on the USPTO website.
Pre-registration copyright protection is available for works that have not been published and will be commercially distributed. In this instance, the official copyright must be obtained within three months of release.
Provisional patent protection is available for a 12-month period upon submitting a slightly less formal application with the USPTO. This path is generally less costly than the formal application process.
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