It is essential to protect the intellectual property of your online business. It takes a lot of time and hard work in order to have an all-original content website. The unique content, a concept, or a new product or service for your online business is your intellectual property. According the US Chamber of Commerce American businesses lose billions of dollars every year due to piracy of this property.
There are essentially two options available to legally protect the content of your internet business.
First you can place a copyright notice on your site. A copyright protects "original works of expression." This would include things such as articles, novels, graphic arts, audio recordings, music, video, photography, and software. A copyright is to prohibit others from copying or commercially using those works without the copyright owner's permission.
Copyright protection starts as soon as a work is created. This copyright is valid immediately and stays effective for 50 years after the death of the owner. When others try to use material that has a copyright, they must have the owner's permission or they can be held liable for copyright infringement.
When publishing your copyrighted material, you can post the date and symbol (©) yourself and it is technically covered. However, to have your copyright registered you file an application with the US Copyright Office and submit with a payment of $45.00, or $35.00 if submitting electronically. The small costs involved are well worth the protection you get. You do not have to RE-register a copyright at anytime unless you make a significant change to the original work, such as add a chapter to an ebook.
You do not have to place an actual copyright emblem on your original work. Even if a copyright symbol is not showing it is still protected. Protection of your online content is legislated under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. All your content is AUTOMATICALLY protected under copyright laws as soon as you create it. This is true whether you officially register the content or not and whether you display a copyright symbol or not.
Never be tempted to copy someone else's website, content or unique concepts. It is stealing and when others notice this it will damage your reputation and possibly ruin your business.
A registered trademark or service mark () has been registered with the US Patent & Trademark Office. A service mark identifies the source of a service. The ® is the symbol of a registered trademark. After registering a trademark, an "Affidavit of Use" has to be filed five to six years from the date of the original registration. This form also has to be filed within the last year of every 10-year period. For a Registered Trademark the fees vary depending on what you are filing it for and how you do your filing.
If you have concerns about protecting your intellectual property, it is best to consult with an attorney. You do not want someone to get the benefit from stealing your work. If someone else is using your intellectual property it could also cause confusion and dilute your marketing. Having an attorney that is experienced in copyright law will come in handy if someone plagiarizes your copyrighted material.
Copyright details at: copyright (dot) gov/register/
Trademark details at: uspto (dot) gov/
Additionally, there are some great add-on tools to help protect your online business intellectual property. A very successful way to protect yourself and to catch the cheaters is a web service called copyscape.com.
In summary, it is not hard or costly to protect intellectual property from theft when you use the proper legal procedures and the tools available. It is essential to always safeguard your unique online business content. Using the appropriate legal steps and the best available tools will save you time, frustration and possibly a lot of money.