Protecting Intellectual Property for creative entrepreneurs

Creative Entrepreneurs! How are You Protecting Your Intellectual Property?

You’ve heard about the importance of protecting intellectual property before, from me and pretty much everyone else. You know it’s important. But, creative entrepreneurs tend to forget — or maybe just ignore — that the majority of the work they produce is, in fact, their intellectual property. Coaches, speakers, public figures: your ideas, your programs, the talks you give, and the events you host are your intellectual property. So, what should you be doing to protect them?

Protecting the Title of Your Talk, Program, or Event

As a creative entrepreneur, it is essential that your work and your message be recognizable as yours. That’s why you spend hours honing your language, developing your signature programs and events, and coming up with perfect names that encompass the ‘why’ behind your message. The events you host, the talks you give, and the programs you offer are what makes your business yours, and it’s why people want to work with you. But, unlike physical assets, these ideas are often left unprotected. What can you do about it?

I often get asked if it is possible to copyright the titles of talks, programs, or events. The short answer is no, but that isn’t the end of the story. Titles, as a kind of intellectual property, are likely better suited for trademark protection than copyright. Before we go much further on that idea, let’s do a quick review:

What is the Difference Between a Copyright and a Trademark?

A copyright is the IP protection associated with “original works of authorship.” In the creative entrepreneur realm, this includes both published and unpublished writings, audio recordings, plays, artwork, photography, etc. That’s why the title to a program isn’t quite right for copyright protection. The content of an event, program, or talk (for example, your powerpoint presentation, your handouts, and your written or recorded program materials) can all be copyrighted.

Trademarks, by contrast, are used to protect marks that identify a business and its assets. Most commonly, we talk about business names and logos with regard to trademarks. However, it is also possible (and advisable) to trademark product or service names and visual representations. For example, if one of your signature programs is to host an online webinar once a month, or give a talk at conferences, or conduct a training for a certain clientele, you may decide to trademark the title of these programs, events, or talks.

Like copyright protections, trademarks do provide certain common law protections prior to registration. However, registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) extends these protections and makes them easier to enforce. The USPTO database is also an important place to look when you are developing titles to your programs, events, and talks. Make sure that the name is not already in use in a similar industry as your own. If you fail to check and start using a name that is already trademarked, you may need to change your title down the road or end up subject to legal action.

It is important to remember that trademark protection only extends to marks that are distinguishable from other similar goods and services. For that reason, a program title that is too broad or too descriptive will likely not receive trademark protection.

Establishing Ownership Over Content

You may be asking yourself, is she really suggesting that I register every single thing I create?? No. Of course, it would be time-consuming and probably unnecessary to register every single original work you create. However, protection is a cost-benefit analysis. It’s like deciding whether to add an asset to your insurance policy. You probably don’t call your homeowners’ insurance company if you buy a new coat, but you would if you get a new laptop. Think of your intellectual property in the same way. If a program, event, or talk is becoming one of your business’ biggest assets — if customers are coming to associate your signature program with your business name — then it’s probably time to register.

Consider the value of that product to your business. What would happen if you were no longer able to use the program title because of a trademark infringement issue? What if your customers can’t tell whether your program is associated with you or with another company? What about your ideas? What if you find out that an entire training you spent weeks creating is being sold by another company?

If your business would suffer from the loss of a particular event, program, or talk, then it may be time to consider protecting that IP.

Protection Doesn’t Mean Preventing Your Ideas from Spreading

I sometimes get feedback from creative entrepreneurs who are afraid of being too protective of the IP. After all, one of the best ways to get noticed is to have your ideas shared. Protecting your IP isn’t about preventing your ideas from getting out there. Instead, it’s about making sure that you have recourse if and when you start seeing an impact on your bottom line. Of course, you want your work to be shared. My guess is you don’t want it stolen.

At The Brand Protected ®, we have years of experience working with creative entrepreneurs to protect their IP. If you are concerned about your programs, products, talks, or events, feel free to reach out by clicking here. We are always happy to talk through your program portfolio and help you identify where your business could use some protection.