Anyone with a new invention or process must file for a patent in order to protect his or her ownership and use rights. However, that is not so for new works of art, photos, pictures, songs, books, manuscripts, publications, plays, movies, and shows, among other things. For items of creative expression, copyright is automatic, meaning that nothing needs to be done to claim copyright protection. Although additional rights are provided if the work is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, legal protection is guaranteed once a work is created – which is the day it is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.”
That’s not all that is different between copyrights and other intellectual property protections such as patents and trademarks. That is why this is an area of business about which there are many questions. Why is a creative work automatically copyrighted but not other kinds of inventions? Do copyright protections expire or do they last forever, like a trademark? And what kind of legal protection does copyright offer the average person or business? The answers to these questions help shed light on how people and businesses can protect creative property.
The average person knows very little about patents, copyrights, trademarks and service marks. They all fall within the complex legal realm of protecting the rights to something unique created by or belonging to a person or company, generally referred to as ‘intellectual property’. If you ask the typical entrepreneur if his brand needs a trademark or service mark, he probably wouldn’t know. And if you asked an average CEO to explain if or when a product needs a patent, he is unlikely to know the answer. In fact, even the average attorney knows little about this niche area of the law. It focuses on that special axis point where creativity and invention intersects with business and marketing.
While multinational companies have huge legal departments that handle trademarks and service marks for their intellectual property, the average mid-sized and small businesses generally do not. In fact, the leadership at small and mid-sized companies may not even give any thought at all to protecting the company’s intellectual property. Although they should protect their brand, products or services from possible infringement, most don’t. And that is risky business. The first step in protecting intellectual property is to understand the basics about the protections available and how they work.
Obsession is an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes in a person’s mind; a compulsive or even irrational fixation. Obsessive thinking often leads to habitual, uncontrollable behavior. Mildly obsessive behavior is seen as a personality quirk. In extreme cases, it is even characterized as a mental defect. In fact, there is even a recognized psychological condition called Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. People who have Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder may engage in repeated illogical behaviors such as serial hand washing, compulsive checking (to see if a door is locked or an oven is off) or hoarding. Psychologists think that perhaps obsessive behavior originates from the brain’s warning system to ensure people worry about everyday things such as whether something is still good to eat, or to be aware if a noise is approaching from behind or to be alert to protect children from harm. Then it grows from there into thoughts and behaviors that are ‘out of control.’
Most people don’t want to be obsessive or be perceived by others as obsessed. In a world where one’s time and attention is pulled in many different directions, there is a general desire to achieve balance – balance between work and play; balance between taking care of oneself and doing for others; balance between action and rest. If balance is the ideal, then obsession is generally regarded as ‘the enemy.’ But some think that perhaps obsession has a bad rap. Is obsession always a bad thing? Can obsession be a good thing?
Marketing is constantly evolving. First there was print advertising. Then came persuasive radio commercials. After that came colorful TV ads. Then, with the evolution of technology and the advent of the World Wide Web, companies established an online presence. Business owners quickly surmised that without a website, their company would not be perceived as ‘legitimate’ or ‘reputable’ by most consumers. Even the smallest mom-n-pop shops set up simple, informative websites Then, as e-commerce flourished, websites became more sophisticated. Then companies were forced to go social. Social media sites sprouted up like weeds and companies had to get engaged or be forgotten. All of this marketing takes time and costs money. Still, the pace of change is relentless and businesses are now facing yet another change thanks to the growing tidal wave of Smartphones. Used by tweens, teens and adults of all ages, Smartphones are quickly taking over the shopping landscape and businesses are now feeling pressured to design websites that are mobile-friendly.
However, many companies have been slow to embrace the mobile revolution. After all, setting up and maintaining mobile websites, in addition to traditional websites, is both costly and complicated. Why go mobile when a company’s standard website works just fine and is delivering tons of traffic and sales? The answer: because Google has just said so. And Google, the 800-pound gorilla of the digital realm, will not take “no” for an answer. Continue reading