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Too often, people see their intellectual property stolen. Sometimes, this tragedy happens in part with an idea or smaller aspect of it being taken and profited from by someone else. However, other times, the entire property is blatantly copied and the person who stole it reaps the benefits. We’ve seen it happen in music, literature, film, and many other industries. While it’s completely reasonable to be inspired by someone else’s work, there is a line for when it becomes theft. Here are some tips for protecting your own intellectual property whether you invented something, write music, or create in some other way. This advice can also apply to any aspect of a business you own and operate and the product or services you produce from it.

Make it legal

In any industry, the sooner you take the legal steps necessary to protect your intellectual property, the better. Having airtight legal protection is the best assurance that someone cannot steal the property. Get any copyrights necessary and consider the different patents you can get, such as just in your country, internationally, online, etc. Whether you’re making something creative or have a business idea, you want to have a copyright on it before anyone else has the chance to take and use it.

Find a legal expert

While you can fill out some forms on your own, it’s better to have a legal professional who can walk you through every step of the process. Find someone who is experienced in your industry and knows the ins and outs of protecting intellectual property in that industry. Having someone with legal knowledge in your corner makes the process of protecting your intellectual property much easier.

Keep everything in writing

No matter what stage you’re at with protecting your property, keep everything in writing. Record when you first came up with the idea, first created the content, the process of copyrighting it; everything. If you ever have to dispute someone else’s usage of it or a competing copyright or patent, a paper trail makes it more likely the result is in your favor.

Plan for the future

You can copyright ideas, phrases, and concepts you have not begun developing yet. For example, musicians will often copyright song titles or phrases from their music. If you’re thinking of product development, you can patent that product before you begin making it. As you plan for your future and the future of your intellectual property, consider whether or not you need international copyrights and patents or specific clauses in agreements.