There are three main types of intellectual property protected by the law: patents*, copyrights, and trademarks. While most people are familiar with these erms, they frequently confuse what each one means and what they protect. There are many excellent resources out there that define and differentiate patents, copyrights, and trademarks; I find these definitions from the USPTO to be especially helpful and clear. This post will focus on copyright - the most widespread and common intellectual property - which most people have no idea they own.
Copyrights: Once you have created an "original work of authorship," you have an automatic copyright by virtue of the creation alone. So, if you have taken photos, published a story, or written a song, you have a copyright as soon as the work is "created and fixed in a tangible form." But be careful to make sure that ou are the actual creator of the work; for example, the copyright on a picture belongs to whomever hits the shutter. So be careful that you don't let a monkey get a hold on your camera. For many people, their copyrights simply exist but are never acknowledged or enforced; until, of course, their original work is misappropriated for profit or simply without credit. It is at that point that you need to consider the value of your copyrighted work (whether it is monetary value or personal value) and the costs of enforcement to decide whether to take any action to protect your copyright. In a brief consultation, I can help you determine which, if any, enforcement actions make the most sense for you.
Once you have decided that your copyrighted work is valuable enough to protect, I can help you find a variety of legal solutions that can hopefully prevent misappropriation in the first place, such as, registration and clear, written contracts whenever copyrightable work is being created, sold, or licensed to another person. But if your work does get stolen, I can help with enforcement, especially with DMCA takedown notices and other cease and desist letters.
My next post will cover how to determine if your company name, slogan, or icon (amongst others) are trademarks protectable under federal law.
*My legal services related to intellectual property focuses on copyright and trademark because patent law requires scientific or technical knowledge that I do not have. If patent issues arise during the course of my representation of a client, that work will be referred to a patent attorney.