First of all, ideas are not protectable. However, if your idea is in tangible form–either as a creative work or an invention–you can protect it.
For a copyrightable work,
such as a literary, dramatic or musical work, you would register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. Simply fill out the LegalZoom questionnaire and send us either one or two copies of your original work (depending on if it has been published or not). We review your answers for spelling, consistency and completeness before completing your application and submitting it along with a copy(ies) of your work to the U.S. Copyright Office. Your copyright registration is effective once it's accepted by the Copyright Office.
Learn more about copyright protection here. or watch our short video, Copyright, Trademark and Patent: What's the Difference?
For an invention, you would want to apply for a patent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). There are a couple different types of patent protection
, although most people apply for a utility patent
because they are looking to protect the functionality of their invention. Because of the America Invents Act, a law recently passed that changed the patent system from a "first-to-invent" to a "first-to-file" one, it has become more important than ever before to file your application as soon as possible. For utility patents, the best way to do that is with a provisional application for patent
, which secures your priority filing date for up to one year and allows you to use the term “patent pending” in relation to your invention. However, a provisional application for patent is not available for design patents.
Learn more about what patents protect here. or watch our short video, Copyright, Trademark and Patent: What's the Difference?