When a work of art is published, the author (or publisher) is granted a copyright. To further enforce the author’s legal rights, he may apply for a copyright with the US Copyright Office. This can involve different artistic material in various mediums, such as books, unpublished manuscripts, song lyrics, musical compositions, visual arts, and even motion pictures.
For inventions and innovations, though, the concept of the patent is what usually applies. A patent grants ownership of a process, innovation, manufactured product, or substance to its owner. Patents are usually granted to unique inventions. An owner of a patent has the exclusive right to produce that particular product, or use the patented process in producing other products.
When an invention involves ideas and processes that are already patented by other inventors, then their express permission is required. This is usually the case with pharmaceutical companies, in which patent holders are paid millions of dollars so that the drug producers can create medicines based on substances they have patented.
Therefore, if you are an inventor, you will need to protect your work. Otherwise, other individuals or businesses might use it without your knowledge or consent.
The US Patent and Trademark Office handles the application, processing and granting of patent applications in the country. Having your invention patented might take considerable time, effort and even some amount of money, though. Sometimes, you may not be ready to apply for a patent yet, given certain constraints. And it’s usually best to patent inventions when they are perfected, so that you will have no need to apply for revisions or additions.
One good way to protect your invention even prior to patenting it is by copyrighting the ideas that are involved in making the invention. For instance, if it is a device, then you can create technical drawings or a technical description, and you can apply with the US Copyright Office for a copyright on that particular technical drawing or description.
Technical drawings are different from sketches in that these include the exact measurements, specifications, materials, and other information pertinent to the object it is describing. If you are unable to create a technical drawing yourself, you can consult with an engineer, architect or draftsman to help you. Remember to ask whoever makes your drawings to sign a release form authorizing you to use his drawing for any requirement you may have—basically releasing copyright to you.
Photographs of your invention, or other visual aids can also be copyrighted. If you have already fabricated working models or prototypes of your invention, you can take pictures of each part, for a better appreciation of how the invention was done. You can also use videos to record the development of your invention. These are also eligible for copyrighting with the US Copyright Office.
While these drawings and visual representations may not necessarily constitute your having a patent over your invention, copyrighting these will help prove your ownership of the idea or concept in case someone else applies for a similar copyright or patent afterward. Copyrighting ideas pertinent to your invention will also give you peace of mind, and will help you provide the USPTO additional information about your patent application if the need arises.