First, let me say, I am not a lawyer. I am not anyone with any importance of any kind. I am, however, someone that has to deal with and be concerned with things like intellectual property. So, I thought this post might be useful for anyone who also has concerns about protecting what's yours. There are links at the bottom to a few good resources; if you've got one, please add it in the links!
Intellectual Property | What is it? Intellectual Property is intangible. It's intangible property created by the mind. Meaning, it's the result of creativity. A patent, a trademark and a copyright are examples of IP (intellectual property.)
IP is a very valuable asset so be sure to protect yours.
What is a Copyright? Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. ---from copyright.gov
You know how all the photos on this website has a copyright statement on each of the photos? That's my copyright protection. I am very clearly declaring that I created that photograph and I own all the rights to it. Have you ever looked at a website? It will usually say somewhere © Copyright Company Name 2009 All Rights Reserved somewhere on it. As long as you have the © symbol, the word 'copyright,' the name of the copyright holder and the year on something; you have basic protection. This is why that statement is on most websites.
You can take it a step further by registering your work with the Copyright Office. (link below) It's pretty inexpensive.
What is a Trademark? A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. All content including but not limited to text, photos and downloads, are copyright to Simplicity Embellished™, Cole Imperi and Imperi Partners. Some content and photos may be used with permission elsewhere. Please email email@example.com if you would like to use something.---from uspto.gov
You can trademark a bunch of things; like a logo, or just words, or a color, or the way your packaging looks. The ™ is used for non-federally registered marks. The ® is used for federally-registered marks.
What is a Service Mark? A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. ---from uspto.gov
What is a Patent? A patent is like, the best kind of protection you can get, IF you can get it. It's generally a long, expensive process, but it's always worth it if you can get it.
Things like drugs, machinery and formulations are patented.
What do I need? It depends on what you've got. Use the links below to go some good sources that can help you determine which is best for you, and don't be afraid to obtain the services of a lawyer in trying to secure any of these. They can help make the process seamless and fluid and can point out things you may not have noticed.
And don't think that intellectual property is something only big businesses can get. It's something anyone can create, have and protect.
Useful Intellectual Property Links:
Copyright Office (United States) http://www.copyright.gov
United States Patent and Trademark Office http://www.uspto.gov/patents/resources/types/index.jsp
US Government's Database Search Tool (search current trademarks) http://tess2.uspto.gov
Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/
Intellectual Property Lawyers http://legalrecords.findlaw.com/ss/search_results_exp.jsp?ch=LP&legaltopic=1&legalissue=131&search=exp&law=lawyer