If inspiration strikes and you develop a genius business idea, you'll likely be eager to copyright this idea as a means of protection. Through the obtaining of a copyright, you can ensure that others don't steal your work and profit from your great idea. Applying for and receiving a copyright is the only way to legally protect your idea and, as such, is well worth the time investment.

Step 1.

Check to ensure that your business idea fits into one of the copyrightable categories. The U.S. Copyright Office offers copyrights in eight categories: literary works, musical works, dramatic works, works of choreography, artistic works, motion pictures, sound recordings and architectural works. If your business idea doesn’t fit into one of these categories, you can't obtain a copyright; you need to seek a patent instead.

Step 2.

Put your idea into tangible form. You can’t copyright an idea that you haven't made into tangible form. For example, you can’t say that you have an idea for a musical program that will help students learn to read, and copyright the idea alone. To be copyrightable, you must actually create the work that you envision.

Step 3.

Complete a copyright application (see Resources). On this application you're asked to classify your work, compose a brief description of the work and provide personal information about yourself. This application must be completed in blue or black ink, or typed into the PDF form provided.

Step 4.

Submit the application, along with a filing fee and a copy of the work to be copyrighted, to the United States Copyright Office. Mail this application to:

U.S. Copyright Office 101 Independence Avenue SE Washington, DC 20559-6000