Protecting Your IP: Copyright & Trademarks
As an avid comic book reader in my youth, I was consumed by the tales featuring heroes such as Spider-Man, The Hulk, Superman, The Avengers and The New Teen Titans. While the stories and artwork caught most of my attention, I couldn't help but notice tiny bits of text near the logos or titles of these books. The letters "TM" and "C" often stood out, and although I came to learn what they stood for, it wasn't until many decades later that they'd truly become significant to me.
As I've mentioned many times before in my blog and to anyone who has passed by my booth at a convention to discuss Chronokari Alpha, creating the concept and writing the book might have been the easiest part of the journey. To help get Chronokari Alpha out to the masses promotion and social media have taken up a large chunk of my time. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are now regular parts of my daily activities keeping readers and fans up to date with all things Chronokari. When it came to protecting my intellectual property copyright was the first one I took care of. Registering for Canadian and American copyright helped to protect my rights to the digital and print books. Even before the novella was published I had registered Chronokari Alpha with the Canadian and U.S. copyright offices. The fees were relatively low and the process was quite simple.
Trademarks however were another matter altogether. They weren't even on my radar until I thought about expanding the brand onto things like posters and t-shirts. When I was toying around with opening a Cafepress store to sell Chronokari Alpha merchandise, applying for a trademark was the next step in the process. While copyrights protect literary works, trademarks cover such things as the Chronokari Alpha logo that can be found on the t-shirts, sweaters and various other articles of clothing found in my Cafepress online shop.
Now the road to obtaining a trademark can be a long, winding and expensive road - especially if you plan to register for one in more than one country. Unless you're lucky enough to have your intellectual property bought by an entity that will take care of these matters, the burden falls upon you, the self-published author or indie creative team. You may question the wisdom of going to such lengths to protect your intellectual property, especially considering the costs and the amount of money self-published authors and artists generate from their books and comics. Given all of the late nights and sweat equity generated to get your book or comic into the marketplace, protecting it and the IP only makes sense. Think of it as insurance. If you can afford it, go ahead but in the case elements from your website, novel or comic pop up somewhere else without your permission, copyrights and trademarks give you the protection to keep your ideas and hard work in the right hands - yours.