More financial reasons to get that copyright registration!

I previously provided two compelling reasons to invest in United States copyright registrations instead of patents. The even better news is the additional reasons which are financially significant!

First, a United States copyright registration has a much longer enforceable lifetime than a United States patent: currently (i) life of the author plus 70 years, and (ii) 95 or 120 years for works for hire (about works for hire please refer to my postings on employment agreements and vendor agreements). In contrast, a utility patent has a maximum enforceable term of twenty years from (i) the time the application was filed, or (ii) from the date an earlier related application was filed. As a practical matter, this patent term is always significantly less than twenty years.

Second, another little known yet terrific financially lucrative incentive for qualified authors is known as reversion of rights. For example, if you are the author and copyright owner of a cartoon, you may sell your copyright to another person. Suppose you sell the copyright to your cartoon for a very low price. The second copyright owner subsequently presents the cartoon to a comic book company and receives huge licensing fees! Nevertheless, there may be a surprise happy ending (for you) because there is a time window in which to reacquire rights to the cartoon. Why? Because qualified authors can re-acquire copyright when, for example, the copyright in a work was transferred before the value of the work became apparent. There is no such provision under the United States patent statute.

There is a third little known reason to prefer copyright registration which is especially important for IT businesses. Under most circumstances, it is much easier to preserve confidential information and trade secrets in software and computer programs with copyright registration rather than patents. Again, why so? Because patent law requires sufficient information be included so a person skilled in software can recreate it without undue experimentation by referring only to the patent. There is no such requirement under the copyright statute; instead there are procedures so the copyrighted software may omit confidential information. This means that with copyright registration, you can have your cake and eat it too!

Yet another fourth compelling reason: A United States copyright registration is enforceable in most foreign countries to the same extent that the countries’ nationals are protected! Many of you are aware that to file internationally for patent protection requires applications in each country, even if the applicant initially files through patent treaties. Consequently, very few businesses can afford the attorney fees, in addition to the government and administrative fees required for international patent protection. Moreover, if you file in other countries then the United States patent office will publish your entire patent application on the patent office website even if you not you receive a patent!


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