What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is a work or invention that is the result of creativity. It can be a manuscript, an art design, a piece of music, or even content in a book or an online course. With your intellectual property, you can apply for a patent, copyright or trademark. Each has its unique characteristics. Intellectual property can be extremely valuable to an entrepreneur as it can be used multiple ways and even create residual income.
A very brief definition of a patent is a license giving you the right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using or selling an invention. A copyright is the exclusive legal right given to the creator or assignee to print, publish, perform, film or record material. You can also authorize others to do the same. A trademark is a symbol, word or group of words legally registered or established by use to represent a company or product. I currently own a few trademarks I use in my speaking business and co-own one for a music group I toured with, Double Grandé.
I will briefly expand on the use of copyrights and trademarks here as they are the mediums used mostly by entrepreneurs. All are accessible for you to apply and access independently. However, there are many trusted legal sources you can pursue to help you through this process and I highly recommend one of those legal sources for anything beyond the basics.
Types of Intellectual Property for an Entrepreneur
There are so many avenues open to entrepreneurs in developing intellectual property. Composing has been a part of my career and as a result, I have created musicals and hundreds of songs. But I also have produced multiple books and online courses. Online courses in and of themselves cannot be copywritten, but the material included in them can and should be. Protecting your intellectual property should be a priority.
Many writers, speakers and trainers format their message into books and online courses. There is a lot of information about copywriting on the U.S. Copyright office website at copyright.gov. The process isn’t tough to do entirely yourself. The current electronic filing fee is $45 and goes up with paper filing. (mail-in) If you have a group of songs or projects, you can group those together on one form with one fee, which I have done with musicals and album projects. Even though legally your work is protected once you create it, having a government copyright record to back it up is very important if there is ever a legal dispute.
As far as trademarks are concerned, if you have a unique, creative idea, you can trademark it. The U.S. patents and trademarks office is accessible on the uspto.gov website. I have applied for all my trademarks myself, but I suggest most people get help with this process. It’s not as simple as a copyright. The good thing is there is always a government attorney you are able to speak with after you submit your application. The base current cost for one class is $250 per trademark. Only one of my applications was rejected, but I understood why as there was a logical issue of confusion with another trademark. I knew obtaining outside legal help wouldn’t help me in this particular case, so I just cut my losses. Do your homework before applying and it could save you a lot of time and resources. Again, there’s a lot of information online. We will now cover five basic steps in developing your intellectual property.
Step One: Define Your Uniqueness as a Creator
It is helpful to first define your uniqueness. Even if you are creating a project as a part of a side hustle or business, it’s good to think through this step. This will help you develop your brand and messaging with your intellectual property. Do you write books? Are you a songwriter? Are you an educator, an artist? Many entrepreneurs do all these things as they are super creative. But just creating products or projects doesn’t necessarily mean you can sell them. They also should have a purpose.
Step Two: Define the Purpose for the Product
I have to admit that I have created projects just for the joy of creating. In fact, there’s really nothing wrong with that and I encourage people to pursue their passions, especially in the halftime of life. But one of the things that intellectual property does when formatted correctly, is create residual income.
Residual income can come in all forms, whether in licensing courses, book content, songs, musicals, etc… As an example, I have used a video source, StoryBlocks (formerly VideoBlocks) for years to license videos for shows and video production. It’s been well-worth the yearly fee for me. If you have videos or music or even artwork available, you could license it as well for creators like myself!
Step Three: Create a Plan for Production
This is where many creators who can’t or don’t finish projects need to take a step back. I have seen many start strong, only to lose their momentum, their creative ideas and even funds. I usually work with the end in mind through every project I have produced. I did this fairly naturally for years without actually defining it, but it helped me to identify the process so I could help others.* In completing the musical score from Tsarina the Musical, I used a simple excel sheet to document my progress. I had a goal to finish the score completely by a certain date because I was also working on a new book deadline. I achieved my goal because I put the workable system in place.
For the music score, I had already defined the purpose, which was to license the musical. I planned to do this along with my other musicals, Stiltz the Musical and One Little Kiss. But creating the score was only a part of the process to develop my intellectual property. Because I had already produced the world premieres and had video footage and refined scripts for a couple of the musicals, this process made sense as they would be easier to market. The next step was to put all the parts together to make the licensing easy and accessible. Some of this planning was done in stages as I went along, decreasing the overwhelm. Think through your process and you can revise what is needed as you proceed, but at the very least have an outline of a plan.
Step Four: Define How it Will Work for You
Step four is focused on market impact and it’s important to realize not all product and intellectual property generates a profit, at least right away. The many CD’s I’ve produced through the years didn’t make money in sales, but they got me engagements that more than paid for their production. Because of this, they were a marketing tool. The recent year with no live engagements has provided time to hunker down and complete additional sheet music from various projects which will in turn create residual income. (Deborah’s Sheet Music)
Books can also be repurposed. Stuck is Not a Four-Letter Word was transformed into a large 42-episode online course called Change Your Life: Get Unstuck. (check out the free preview!) Though it would be fun to create a course for all my books, it doesn’t make sense to spend the time to create them unless there’s a market. Time is very valuable. Also, you can understand the process of creating, but you also have to market it and sell it, which is crucial!
Step Five: Define How You Will Market and Sell It
If you don’t market and sell, you won’t be in business very long. As a creator and entrepreneur, I love a good project. But at this stage of my life, every new project should have a place in the marketplace. And if an older project is no longer relevant, I have to be willing to drop it. Letting go of a project is extremely tough for any creative, which is something I definitely understand!
It’s actually good to evaluate how you will market and sell at the beginning of developing or expanding your intellectual property. If it has a viable market, it’s worth creating. But it also morphs as you go along. Study where the market is headed. Who knew online content would be so valuable in a year of shutdowns? Courses on how to create online courses started to show up daily in my inbox, helping others develop their intellectual property. Quality software developers were busier than ever providing the tools to create.
Summing This Up
I think one of the best ways to think about intellectual property is to look at what is already working for you. Then find a way to repurpose any original material you have in a format that you can copyright or trademark. Roundabout Hero™ came out of my keynote speech, The Hero Inside. I had not set out to create another trademark, but it made sense to do so as it was a unique idea that I felt needed protected.
While going through these steps, you should have a good idea of how you will use your intellectual property, sell it and market it. Remember, it takes time to develop and may not create a great deal of income right away, but in the long run could pay off very handsomely! Enjoy the process and I wish you all the luck in the world! I’m on your team rooting for you! I’ve included a couple links to my products below FYI.
*I began formatting Hero Mountain Summit over 5-months to help others achieve their goals by adding valuable expertise and acting as a pacer, similar to winning any athletic competition!
Find a way to repurpose any original material you have in a
format that you can copyright or trademark.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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