Intellectual property protects your creative works and inventions through patents, trademarks, and copyrights. However, even if you’re the creator, people may use your work without permission. Content theft tends to be the most prevalent type of theft, particularly when copyrighted works are posted online. Fortunately, you can protect your creation and inventions in a number of ways.

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Register with the USPTO

You can formally register, copyright, or patent your work to make it easier to prove your ownership. When it comes to logos, brand names, and inventions, trademark registration and patent registration can cement your ownership and prevent someone else from claiming the work as their own. To help protect your works and inventions, you'll want to note whether the content or invention has been registered. One exception to this is copyright. You do not actually have to register with the USPTO to list your work as being copyrighted in the traditional © notation. You can attach a Copyright Notice to your work and at the bottom of your website pages.

Monitor Use of Your Content or Invention

While industrial trade secret theft has been on the rise, written material and images are the most commonly stolen and used without permission. Most of the time, the only way that you will know that your work is being used inappropriately is if you monitor how the content is used. For written content, the simplest way is to search online for your content or conduct a plagiarism search through independent services.

Use a Cease and Desist Letter

When you discover that someone is using your content inappropriately, one of the first steps is to send a Cease and Desist Letter. A verbal request may be sufficient, but providing an actual Cease and Desist Letter gives you official record of the request. It's also best to keep as much of the correspondence in writing as possible, since it can help you in an official lawsuit.

There's no state or federal requirement for the number of Cease and Desist Letters you should send. Technically, you can file a lawsuit on the first violation, but that's not always the best course financially. Even if you settle out of court, as most of these cases do, it comes at a price. Depending on your state, registration of the suit alone could cost about $200 in addition to service of notice costs. However, if the Cease and Desist Letter doesn't work, then you can file a formal lawsuit to protect your work.

Send an Assertion of Rights Letter

If you find someone using your creation but you don't assert your rights, you could unintentionally waive your rights for further actions because of implied consent. Essentially, the argument goes that if you are aware that someone is using your work and you do not do anything to assert your rights, then you are saying that they can use it. You don't necessarily have to send a Cease and Desist Letter, but you may want to send an Assertion of Rights Letter. Essentially, this is just a letter that states you know they're using your content and asks for attribution or just affirms that they can use it but you are not relinquishing any rights.

For more help protecting your intellectual property rights from infringement, visit our Intellectual Property Center.

Get Started Protect your intellectual property Create IP documents and ask a lawyer your questions.

Get Started Protect your intellectual property Create IP documents and ask a lawyer your questions.