17 Feb Intellectual Property Protection for Bloggers
In recent months, The Brand Protected ® has noticed an increase in contacts from bloggers wanting to learn more about how to protect themselves, their businesses, and their content. It seems as though the past year of working from home has spurred a flurry of new content creation, which is something I love to see!
As more and more creators join the blogging universe, we wanted to take a moment to pause and reiterate how bloggers can protect their ideas and outputs by paying attention to their intellectual property.
What is Intellectual Property in the Blogging Context?
The most basic way to think about intellectual property is: 1) Did you make it? 2) Then, it’s yours.
Of course, there are infinite complexities within this overarching rule; but, the basic principle remains true. If you take a photograph, or come up with an idea, or write a novel, or design a logo, the “common law” rule is that you are the owner. Your “intellectual property” is whatever you create. However, just because you came up with an idea or made a product does not mean that you can defend your intellectual property using legal channels. These legal channels, such as trademark and copyright protection, require a certain amount of effort on your part to establish 1) that you are in fact the owner of the idea, image, or product, and 2) that there is no chance that anyone else could claim ownership over the same intellectual property.
To make things a little easier, let’s break down intellectual property in the blogging context into two categories: IP that can be trademarked and IP that can be copyrighted. A trademark protects identifying marks or information that distinguish your blog from any other. So, this might include things like your blog name and your logo. Copyrights protect works of original content. This might include the actual text of a blog post, a video, or your photography.
SO, IF YOU ARE A BLOGGER, LET’S THINK THROUGH WHAT MIGHT BE INCLUDED IN YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PORTFOLIO:
- Your Blog Name – Trademark
- Your Logo – Trademark
- Any Special Newsletter, Video Series, etc. that has a Name that Makes it Recognizable to Your Audience – Trademark
- Your Online Handles – Trademark
- Uniquely Identifying Hashtags – Trademark
- Blog Content – Copyright
- Photographs – Copyright
- Artwork, Infographics, and Other Visual Content – Copyright
- Video Content – Copyright
- Audio Content (like podcasts, etc.) – Copyright
- E-Books, Downloads, and Other Content Available for Purchase or Offered for Free on Your Site – Copyright
- And so much more!
Do I Need to Trademark My Blog’s Name and Logo?
From the start, the most important intellectual property asset that your blog possesses is its name and logo. Without the blog’s name, no one would know where to find your incredible content! In trademark law, we call this “distinguishability.” What it means is that your blog’s unique name and visual marks make it distinguishable from any other website out there. Your readers and followers use your name and logo to find you, consume your content, and maybe even pay you! If you use advertising and/or sponsorships on your blog, you know how truly valuable it is for your readers and followers to know where to find you.
So, if you only take one thing away from this post, it’s this: register your blog’s name and logo with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. But wait, you may be thinking…didn’t we just learn that you own your blog’s name and logo at common law just because you created it? Yes and no. It is nearly impossible to enforce your trademark if you have not registered it with the USPTO. When you submit your trademark application, the examiners at the USPTO will conduct a thorough investigation to make sure that there are no pre-existing trademarks that could be confused with yours. They do this to protect that all-important “distinguishability.” It can be a little nerve-wracking going through this process, but that’s why we recommend all businesses (including bloggers) do so as early as possible in their business’ life. However, once your trademark is registered, you are entitled to all kinds of protections. The first is that any future applications to the USPTO will be checked against yours. USPTO examiners will not approve a new trademark application if there is a likelihood of confusion with yours. Also, once you are registered, you are able to enforce your trademark. You can do so by sending cease and desist letters to businesses who you believe are encroaching on your intellectual property and you can defend your use of your blog’s name and logo in court, if it ever came to that.
Should I Pursue Copyrights for All of My Content?
As you can see from the list above, as a content-creator, you are making original content all the time. If you wanted to, you could register all of that content with the United States Copyright Office. However, that many copyright registration applications could become costly and burdensome. On the other hand, failure to register your copyright ownership puts you in a similar position as the trademark issue. Yes, you are the de facto owner of everything you create at common law, but it is very difficult to enforce your ownership of your content in court unless you have registered it with the U.S. Copyright Office. That’s where working with an experienced intellectual property attorney can come in handy. An attorney can help you go through your content on your blog and determine which pieces of original content are the most valuable to you and should therefore be protected. Especially unique content, content that took you a lot of time and money to create, and content that has a likelihood of going “viral” should be protected.
How Can I Keep Up with it All?
If this seems like a lot, remember: you don’t have to go through this alone! At The Brand Protected ®, we work with content creators all the time to help them sort through their intellectual property and determine which assets require protection. Then, we take on the task of filing your applications and getting all of your valuable content protected for you. We even work with you on an ongoing basis to make sure that any new content that you create is protected moving forward. If you are a blogger, even one who isn’t yet making any money from your content, let’s talk. Click here to schedule an appointment. You never know how valuable protecting your content will be until the unexpected occurs.