written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 2/18/2009
Sharing your photographs, articles or works of art with others is very fulfilling. Sharing it without protecting it, however, can cost you dearly. Learn how to protect your intellectual property from plagiarism and other illegal uses.
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What is Intellectual Property
When creating a new innovation, piece of art or the perfect picture, you want to be able to share it with the world. But, before you even think of doing that, you need to protect your intellectual property. Intellectual property is defined as something that you create and from which you can benefit monetarily. And, all intellectual property needs to be safeguarded from plagiarism.
The first thing that you should do is hire an intellectual property lawyer. They are the experts and can help you fill out any necessary paperwork and walk you through the entire process.
Do your research. You should know what your rights are and how to protect what you are producing. Your lawyer can help you with this, but you should have a working knowledge of the laws that govern intellectual property.
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Types of Propietary Protection
Next, you need to file for protection under one of the three following types of protection: patent, trademark and copyright.
Patent generally involves the creation of a product or another type of invention. This allows creators to stop others from using, making or selling their product without permission.
A trademark protects a name of a company or product. If you are the first person to file a trademark for a particular name, you essentially own that name. Others cannot use it without your permission and can be sued if they create a business or product with the same name.
The last is copyright. Copyright laws are what are most used by individuals. These laws govern everything from authorship to artists to photographers. When you add a copyright mark to your work, you essentially tell the world that you have the sole right over the distribution, use and display of your works.
A work that is not complete, or in the "raw" stage, cannot be copyrighted. Once your product is done, however, you should start using your copyright and file for copyright protection.
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Protecting Classifed Information From Employee Theft
If you happen to have employees and have a classified formula or trademark secret, have employees, contractors and third-parties with privileged knowledge sign a non-disclosure form. You don't want your employees learning everything that there is to know about your product and then sharing it with your competitors. Your lawyer can help you draft these documents as well.
By protecting yourself, you can be assured that no one else has the chance to steal and use your works for themselves. Always copyright, patent or trademark everything that you produce, and hire a lawyer to make sure that you didn't miss anything and that all your paperwork is correct.