Is it possible to get a music patent? Patents are one option when it comes to protecting the intellectual property that you create, and they may not be the best choice when you want to protect a song.
Singers and songwriters who are interested in protecting their creations are encouraged to contact an intellectual property attorney who can help them to formalize protection of their work.
Is Music Intellectual Property?
Whether it’s the melody, the lyrics or both, music is intellectual property. Does that mean that you can get a music patent?
Not necessarily. To understand why, it’s critical to know the differences between copyrights, patents and trademarks.
Copyrights vs. Patents vs. Trademarks
Musical compositions and performances and recordings of those compositions are protected by copyrights. Registration of these rights is a simple and inexpensive process, but it grants the holder strong protections. If someone else uses your music without paying you or giving you credit, then you have the right to demand that they stop. These rights extend to lawsuits.
Patents are meant to protect inventions. Items that are suitable for a copyright are original works of authorship, but if you want to get a music patent, then you would essentially have to invent something new.
For instance, if you invented a new musical instrument that was unlike anything that people had seen or heard before, it would be appropriate to seek a patent for it.
Trademarks are set aside for protecting things like brands, slogans and logos. If you were in a band, then you might consider obtaining trademark protection for the band’s name or a logo that you use.
Copyrighting Songs and Recordings
If you want to register your copyright to a song or a recording, the process is easy. Most of it is completed online at the website for the U.S. Copyright Office. If you want to make certain that your application proceeds as smoothly as possible, then it’s wise to work with an IP attorney who can prepare and submit the application.
To do so, your attorney will need some basic information about you as the author of the creation and the work itself. You’ll need to provide data like the name of the song or album, and your lawyer will fill out the online form.
Filing online is more efficient and less expensive, so your attorney likely will use this route unless circumstances dictate that a paper filing makes more sense. Either way, it probably will take several weeks, and perhaps even a few months, to receive a copyright registration.
Is a Copyright Worth It?
When you officially register your work, it creates a public record of your rights and enables you to sue if someone infringes those rights. Depending upon when the registration was obtained, you may be able to claim statutory damages and attorney’s fees in addition to actual damages and profits. Moreover, registration can be recorded with U.S. Customs so that officials can watch out for counterfeit products.
Facts You Should Know About Copyrights
- Your work doesn’t have to be published.
Whether you publish your work or not, it can still be federally registered, and therefore is entitled to the full protection of the law.
- Your creation is protected for your lifetime and beyond.
Most published works that were fixed in tangible form after January 1, 1978 may be eligible for a copyright that lasts for 70 years beyond the author’s lifetime.
If you work for a company writing songs, then the copyright’s length may be even longer. This means that your songs are considered “work for hire.” Such compositions are entitled to 95 years of protection from the date of publication or for 120 years from the year of creation of the song, whichever deadline expires first.
- Protection is automatic.
You don’t necessarily have to register a copyright. In the U.S., your work is copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form like writing it down on paper or making a recording of yourself singing it. However, registration gives you far more robust protection under the law.
- Sound recordings are not the same as compositions.
Imagine that you are a singer/songwriter. You’ve just written a song and recorded yourself singing and playing the guitar. This means that you may seek two different copyright registrations: one for the composition itself and a second one for your recording. If that song is used on an album or released as a single, then additional copyright protection may be available.
- Registration gives you rights.
The copyright holder has the power to rearrange and perform the work any way they wish. They can adapt it, reproduce it or distribute it however they like. It’s even possible to license others to do these things. The upshot is that a copyright registration keeps you in the driver’s seat.
Work with Williams IP Law
At the Williams IP Law, we practice in all areas of intellectual property. This includes patents, trademarks and copyrights. If you are curious about how to protect your rights, call Williams IP Law.