Staking Claim to Your Mind Gold*
By J. Nevin Shaffer, Jr.
Who Owns Your Mind Gold?
There is a story told of a man who quit digging for gold three feet
from the mother lode. The new owner first properly “staked his
claim” and then continued digging. Three feet later, when he struck
gold, it belonged to him and not the man who dug almost all the way
to pay dirt. The ability to demonstrate ownership is critical to
capitalizing on the gold from your mind as well.
The talks speakers give are the processed gold of their minds. Their
intellectual capital if you will, their Mind Gold, and their
intellectual property. Just like real, tangible, property, authors
and artists can take steps to protect their intellectual property
Mind Gold or not, the choice is theirs.
5 Steps to Staking Claim to Your Mind Gold
1. Be Original.
Copyright Law protects original works of art and authorship for your
life plus fifty years to a minimum degree the instant the
artwork or speech is reduced to a tangible form. You get no rights,
and possibly plenty of trouble as we will see later, by copying
someone else’s material. Just because it is easy to copy things from
the internet, does not make it yours.
2. Get It In Writing.
If you hire some one outside your business to create material for
you, stake your claim to what you are paying for by requiring the
independent contractor (think IBM hiring the, now, richest man
in the world, independent contractor Bill Gates) to agree to two
things. First they must agree in writing that the work they do will
be original and second they must agree in writing to transfer the
copyrights to the original work to you. (It’s this second thing IBM
did not do.)
3. Put Your Copyright Notice On It.
Even though the law does not require you to put a copyright
notice on the original works you create, it is a whole lot
easier to prove something is yours if your name is on it. Don’t be
bashful; put it on every page, it is “OK”. A proper copyright notice
consists of three elements: The word “Copyright” or the symbol ©,
the year of first publication and the copyright owner’s name.
4. Register the Good Stuff.
It may be that you are a prolific author of original works. You may
only create a single work a year. In either case, you must determine
whether or not what you created is worthy of protecting to the
maximum degree under the law. The cost benefit analysis is:
Cost:$30; Benefit: statutory damages payable for willful
infringement of registered copyright material including Court costs,
attorney’s fees, and up to $150,000 per infringement. This
should be viewed as powerful leverage to get your competitors to
stop copying your material not necessarily what you will accept to
end the infringement. If they infringe unregistered material,
however, you can recover only what you can actually prove you lost
due to their infringement, a very much more difficult job in most
5. Layer Your Protections.
Since works of art and authorship are primarily protected by
copyright law, that is where the primary steps to staking your claim
must be taken. But you should consider all the ways you may be able
to protect your Mind Gold. Your speech or work of art may
concern a useful, new and non-obvious improvement on a pre-existing
device or system. If so, it is protectable by a patent. It
may be offered under a brand of materials unique to you. If so, the
brand should be protected by registration as your trademark.
It may be a product of secret research techniques. If so, you should
keep the techniques protected as a trade secret. In
conclusion, remember, just as you can stay out in the cold longer if
you have on many layers of clothing, the more steps you take to
protect your Mind Gold the better.
[* As published in the Summer 2004 issue of Sharing Ideas; The
International Magazine for Speakers, Meeting Planners, Agents,
Bureaus, Trainers, Seminar Leaders.]
About the Author
Nevin is a licensed patent attorney and has been practicing
Intellectual Property law for 25 years. You may contact Nevin at his
Gulf Breeze office in the Harbourtown complex, Suite 43, or by phone
or email at 850-934-4124 and
firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get information about Nevin and his
practice at his website at
www.nevinshaffer.com. Nevin is a professional speaker as well.
If your organization would like to have him speak about these
topics, please contact him! Note: Nevin speaks in plain English and
not in unintelligible lawyer gibberish!
Copyright 2004 JNSJrPA. The material in this article is provided for
general informational purposes only and should not be considered a
legal opinion nor relied upon in lieu of specific legal advice.
Accordingly, readers who require legal services in connection with
their specific circumstances should consult an attorney competent in
the field of intellectual property.