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Definition: Copyright, Trademark & Patent

copyright provides authors of original works the exclusive right to the reproduction of a work, preparation of a derivative work, distribution of copies, and public performance or display of a work. Copyright protection can be claimed for literary, musical, dramatic, pantomimes and choreographic, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, as well as motion pictures and other audiovisual works and sound recordings. These categories are interpreted broadly to include other intellectual works such as games, computer software, automated databases and web sites.

Copyrights are different from trademarks and patents. A trademark is a symbol, word, or name that identifies a product and is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patents are property rights granted by the Patent and Trademark Office and include the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling a process, machine, article, composition of matter, or plant.

Registering for Copyright Protection

Copyright protection is secured automatically when a work is created and may be registered with the Library of Congress Copyright Office. Works do not need to be registered but, there are legal advantages to doing so. The symbol ©, the word "Copyright," or "Copr." and the year of publication and name of owner are used to notify the public that the work is protected by copyright. Sound recordings use the letter P in a circle. Example: © 1997 John Doe. Processing times vary.  It can take the Copyright Office 9 to 22 months to process registrations.  Current processing times are available.

Registration is secured by submitting a:

1. Completed application form,
2. Fee ($35 - $50),
3. Nonreturnable copy of the work to be registered.

For more information see: Copyright Registration (U.S. Copyright Office).