Copyright Misuse

Copyrights are easy to obtain. They can be applied for using a simple online application process for a very modest fee. Unfortunately, because copyrights are so easy to obtain, they are often mistakenly used to protect intellectual property that should not be protected with a copyright.

Copyrights are granted to the creator of an original work getting the creator exclusive rights to copy, distribute, adapt the work. So a copyright is an excellent way to protect a written work, a musical expression, or a visual expression. However, the copyright protects only the expression or fixation of an idea. It does not protect idea itself.

Copyrights are used ineffectively when one attempts to protect an idea with a copyright. For example, an inventor may invent a new perfume fragrance and then attempt to protect that fragrance with a copyright on its recipe. The copyright for the recipe of the perfume can be used to prevent others from publishing the recipe, but it cannot be used to prevent others from following the recipe. As a result, the copyright does not protect against competitors duplicating the perfume. Only a patent can give protection to an idea.

Sometimes copyrights are also sought for the names, titles, and phrases that identify products and services. However, copyrights cannot be used to protect these identifiers. Instead, one should seek a trademark or service mark. Copyrights can be used to protect artistic elements of a logo or graphic identifier, but should not be used to protect their use as identifiers of a product or service.