Ideas to Make You Rich

You’ve had an idea – how do you stop others from stealing it?

The first thing you need to do is to decide if you have an idea or a product. This will make the difference between copyright and intellectual property. I faced this dilemma recently, and there is a very fine line. The main thing to think is do you have an idea or a product (requiring a patent). Copyright comes along with intellectual property rights automatically. Copyright is the right of the owner to protect their work from plagiarism – if you have copyrighted something, then it is illegal for somebody to copy it without giving you the credit. Intellectual property is for example a book or invention – something original that you have thought of. It may be a product that you have a prototype for, and a patent pending, or it could be the result of work you have recently copyrighted.

I recently had an idea, but no way of making the product. I therefore copyrighted the idea, so that it could not be stolen, whilst I came up with a method to make the product. Dyson had an idea, for his revolutionary vacuum cleaner – he copyrighted that idea (with a drawing), made a prototype in his garage which he then patented, claimed the intellectual property rights to and sold, becoming a millionaire almost overnight.

In order to copyright an idea, you need to have something physical or creative that you can put to paper in order to claim copyright. It may be a technical drawing, or it may be an outline for a novel or script or product that you have an idea for, it may even be a business plan for your idea. Whatever you have, you need to get it down on paper so that you have something physical to represent your idea. This can now be copyrighted.

In the UK and USA, copyright law covers creative works – literary, musical, dramatic. It lasts for between 25 and 70 years depending on the section your work covers (contact The Patents Office or Copyright Licensing Agency for more details). UK copyright protects the creative content but NOT the idea. This is virtually the same in the USA. This is why you need something on paper.

Once created, a work is automatically copyrighted and owned by the creator, you can add the (C) copyright symbol to your work if you wish. In order to prove copyright in a court of law, however, you become liable to prove your ownership of the work by proving its originality. In the UK there is no official register of copyright, unlike in the USA, where you can register copyright via The Library of Congresses web site by paying a fee of around $45. In the UK, there are 3 methods to copyright material:

  • An online registry, which will charge a fee for registration and issue a certificate of ownership – typically £60 per 10 years of copyright (multiply this by 7 for a literary work)
  • Place your work with a solicitor, who will deposit it and issue a dated receipt, after charging a fee from £450+VAT
  • This is harder to prove, but still a legal copyright – seal your work in an envelope and post it to yourself. Once you receive it, it should remain unopened for the life of the copyright. You could also do the same thing electronically, sending the work digitally to your own email and leaving it unopened. This method is free from fees, although may be harder to prove, but as long as there is a date attached to your work, then it should stand up in a court
  • Should the work you have copyrighted, make you some serious cash, then the fees are worth paying (in the USA the cost is minimal so well worth paying). If, however, you can not afford to pay the fees then the third option is the one to choose – this is the option I went with for my idea. I wrote it down and emailed it to myself – it remains unopened in my Inbox. I also developed a web site for it (which has copyright information and symbol on it). My proof is concrete and dated, and should therefore withstand UK copyright law should I need to use it. Other work I do – for example writing articles – is copyrighted automatically, but for my web site I choose to use the copyright symbol and date the work.

    Intellectual property rights cover the ownership of something physical that you have had an idea for and developed – be it a book or other product or invention. You may have a patent pending for it (registered with the Patents Office) and therefore the product is officially yours. In order to find out more about claiming intellectual property rights, then you should visit the website of the Intellectual Property Office.

    I hope that this article has helped you in some way.

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