Do I Have to Register My Intellectual Property to Get Protection?No. As a creator or inventor, you get intellectual property protection as soon as you create something. Before 1978, publication in some form was required, but that has changed. For example, if you write a novel or create a prototype for a robot, you have intellectual property rights immediately. You have the right to create and to own these creations, as well as to share them or sell them as you see fit, with a few exceptions.
Can You Lose Rights to Your Intellectual Property if You Don't Register with the USPTO?In some cases, you can lose rights if you don't register. Patents and trademarks apply to the first creator who successfully fills out the paperwork and files. So if you haven't patented an invention or the process, you could potentially lose your chance to ever patent it if someone invents or creates the same thing and registers it before you do. Once something is patented, the patent holder retains full rights to it for the period of the patent. You might be able to launch a suit, claiming theft or conversion. But you'll have to prove that that individual or company stole it, since the presumption will be that the initial registrar is the owner of the invention or trademark.
Why Should I Register with the USPTO?Depending on the kind of work being registered, making it official with the USPTO provides a number of benefits. For patents and trademarks, it gives you legal authority to prevent anyone else from using your invention or trademark without your permission. Patents and trademarks generally receive full faith and credit protection, meaning that all of the states in the United States recognize that protection. For copyrighted material, copyright registration provides a prima facie case for possession (meaning that the person you're suing has the burden of proving that you stole the work from him or that it was an entirely unrelated creation). Registering does not provide additional rights that allow you to prevent someone from using your work, but it does make it easier to prove that it's your work.
Intellectual property protects your creations. You get these protections as soon as you create the work. However, you improve the strength of your position as owner when you register your work with the USPTO in the appropriate section. If you don't register an invention or trademark, you could potentially lose the rights to use if it turns out that someone else successfully registers it. Through registration, you receive the presumption that the work is yours, and that makes it significantly easier to win intellectual property cases in court.
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This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.