How To Turn Your Ideas Into Dollars

By Rollyn H. Samp


Intellectual property is a general description of taking an idea into the marketplace.

There are three categories of intellectual property:  copyrights, trademarks and patents.

Copyrights are allowed by federal law to protect original writing, art, video, photography, and a variety of individual creations.

Legally, a copyright is created by a “Notice of Copyright” which consists of putting ©, name of the creator and year the work was completed on the front of the work.

A copyright may also be filed on appropriate government forms with the Library of Congress.

If someone wrongfully utilizes copyrighted material of another, the copyright must be filed before a lawsuit for damages can be pursued.

The penalty for violating a copyright is severe including up to $1,000.00 per day, legal costs and expenses and provable actual damages.

Copyrights may be assigned to others for a fee called a “royalty”.

One copyright may have multiple rights to sell such as a book with movie rights, DVD rights, European rights, etc. etc.

Trademarks are another form of intellectual property.  They are filed and approved by the US Patent/Trademark office.

States also have trademark laws which may be utilized.

Trademarks are a unique design and/or combination of words commonly called a brand.

For instance, the word “McDonalds” is just a word.  But put the Golden Arch logo with it and a multi-billion dollar brand is created.

What is approved or not approved as a trademark is subject to the trademark office.  Adverse decisions may be appealed to court.  Potentially valuable “marks” are best filed by attorneys specializing in intellectual property.

Once approved, a trademark is noticed by a small ®.

Patents are important legal protection for new products or methods.  They are also issued by the US patent/trademark office.

Patent applications are generally complex with searches for similar uses, drawings which must conform to federal law and a narrative on the uniqueness of a proposed product.

In recent years, some processes for doing business have been granted patents.  This remains an unsettled area of the law.

A good general rule is if something is worth patenting, investing in a qualified patent attorney is worthwhile.

There are many business stories where a patent has become worth millions or a trademark launched a multi-million dollar product or became the cornerstone of a billion dollar franchise.

There are even more stories of people who did not legally protect intellectual property and never realized the true financial potential.

Legal Principle:  If you create it, protect it!