Protecting Your Ideas

Inventors, artists and musicians have to be very careful with their intellectual property, especially in a time of digital sharing. It’s all too easy to steal someone’s hard work and claim it as your own, even profit from it.
Do you suspect someone is stealing your ideas or invention? Read this to see what to do if someone is using your intellectual property and how to protect yourself in the future.

What type of infringement are you experiencing?

Ideas can be protected once they are expressed, either by writing them down, drawing them, publishing them to a forum, etc. Once an idea has taken on a physical form, it can be subject to different types of protection. These include:

  • Copyright: Copyright protection automatically covers most artists the moment their work becomes ‘tangible’, extending to but not limited by literary, musical, architectural, sound and pictorial works. The work becomes the author’s property and the extension of the copyright can be given out at their discretion. If someone is infringing on your copyright, you can sue for the money lost due to the infringing party’s actions. With a registered copyright, you may also sue for additional statutory damages. Copyright infringement is successful when (1) the infringing work is proven to be “substantially similar” to your work and (2) the infringing party is proven to have had access to the copyrighted work prior to creating their own.
  • Trademark: Someone copying your logo, title, slogan or other trademarked material in a way so as to confuse or deceive consumers is trademark infringement. If you suspect someone is riding your logo’s popularity with a cheap knock-off, you can sue them much like in copyright for money lost due to their infringement. If they are found to have done so intentionally, you may receive other payments.
  • Patent: If you’re lucky or prepared enough to have a patent when someone chooses to steal your idea, you will be well protected in court. Even if you are not yet profiting from your patent, you will be entitled to the enrichment of the infringing party by using your idea, as well as other payments if the infringing party is found to have acted intentionally. If someone has stolen your patent and filed for it before you, you still stand a chance in court if you can prove you had the idea first. Seek the advice of a patent damages expert if you think your patent has been infringed upon.

It’s important to understand the distinction between copyright and the other two. Copyrights are given automatically, and while they can be registered for extra protection, do not require anything other than tangible evidence of an idea. Trademarks and patents on the other hand are intellectual property insurances which must be registered to have legal authority.

Tools to monitor your published work

Luckily there are some tools available to artists and inventors to monitor their shared work. Just because you offer content free online doesn’t mean anyone can use it and potentially profit from it. Utilize these tools if you’re an artist online:

  • Plagium offers affordable options to search for plagiarism across the web with reliable, trusted service.
  • Copyscape is similar to Plagium but you can search for duplicates from your entire website and they offer excellent premium options for regular monitoring.
  • Tineye is a reverse image search that can find incidents of your image files being used without your knowledge.
  • Watermarking tools can be invaluable to videographers but there are so many its worth doing your own research to see which software is best for you.

Someone stealing your ideas is not just unfair, it’s often times illegal. As such, artists, inventors, musicians and even architects are protected under immediate copyright when they produce their ideas, and can further protect themselves by seeking trademarks and patents. Original artists and inventors are entitled to the repayment of damages incurred due to infringement and should seek legal help when their ideas have been stolen..