Kevin Mark Klughart
PhD, PE, JD, MIP, LLM
Patent Attorney / Engineer
Copyright protection for works of expressive art is a Constitutionally guaranteed protection provided by our founding fathers. As stated in the United States Constitution in Article I:
"The Congress shall have power ... to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."
Generally, a copyright on a work of artistic expression exists at the time the work is created, whether or not the work is indicated as "copyrighted". However, a copyright infringement lawsuit may not be initiated without a "Registration of Copyright" which is obtained from the Registrar of Copyrights after a copyright registration application has been filed and processed. Furthermore, copyright infringement damages may not be obtained for acts prior to two months before the copyright registration is issued.
Therefore, it is important to obtain a copyright registration for your artistic work because by the time knowledge of infringement is obtained, much of the infringing profits may not be capable of being compensated due to the two month registration look-back period.
What Copyright Covers
By law (17 U.S.C. §102) copyright protection is provided for "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device."
Works of authorship include the following categories:
What Copyright DOES NOT Cover
Just as important as the coverage of copyright law are the areas that a copyright will NOT protect. In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work. Thus, while copyright generally may protect the artistic expression in a work, it will NOT protect any idea associated with the work. Generally speaking, patent protection is required to protect IDEAS, whereas copyright protection only protects the ARTISTIC EXPRESSION in the work.
Note, however, there are some circumstances in which a Copyright and a Design Patent may both cover the same article of manufacture. In these circumstances the Copyright protects the artistic expression in the work and the Design Patent protects the ornamental design of the article.
Kevin Mark Klughart
Registered Patent Attorney, USPTO
3825 Leisure Lane, Denton, TX 76210-5589
tel: 800-353-1211 / 940-320-0580 - fax 940-320-0581