Norwalk, OH asked in Copyright, Patents (Intellectual Property) and Trademark for Ohio

Q: I created a class and would like to get it protected but dont know what I need.

Do I need a patent, trademark, or copyright?

2 Lawyer Answers
Will Blackton
Will Blackton
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Raleigh, NC

A: What type of class? How is the class material presented?

It's likely that copyright is the appropriate type of protection, but it's unclear without more information.

Kevin E. Flynn
Kevin E. Flynn
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Pittsboro, NC

A: You can protect the content (handouts, teaching notes, PowerPoint slides, etc.) by copyright. If you have come up with a catchy name for your program (like Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics) you can protect that with a trademark.

For both copyright and trademark there are state law rights and enhanced rights with Federal registration. But the federal path costs some additional money.

It would be unusual to have a device or special method that would meet the strict standards for getting a patent (including being novel and being a non-obvious combination of earlier analogous solutions). Maybe the mechanical device that accelerated the view pane moving down over lines of text to teach you to speed read phrases without moving your lips would have qualified years ago.

You can find slides from my October 2016 presentation at the You Grow Girl Annual Business Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina. Discussion of various intellectual property forms and how to use them to protect the competitive advantage that makes a business special.

In the proper situation, it may be appropriate to seek two or more types of intellectual property protection.

Note -- separate and apart from these issues, there is the issue on whether your employer owns the work product that you created. This varies widely from industry to industry and employer to employer. However, in many situations, the output from people paid to create is owned by their employer whether the person is an engineer, reporter, or other creative person.

Talking to a competent attorney and presenting the relevant documents and handbooks from your employment would be a good next step.


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