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When filmmaking, creativity and innovation tend to take the front seat, driving you towards the creation of your work. While the artistic expression of creation in itself is an abstract method, the procedure once you finish your craft is much less abstract.

Sharing, selling, and marketing your artistic work is something that requires a little less creativity and a little more objective consideration. One of the major considerations that you should keep in mind is Intellectual Property (IP) protection.

IP protection is important when your film, filmmaking product, or filmmaking procedure is unique and one-of-a-kind, and you want to protect against the possibility of copycats. It also comes in handy with monetisation and licensing opportunities and is especially crucial when you are ready to share your movie with the public.

Types of Intellectual Property Protection

The key types of protections within IP Law are patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

Patents grant their owners an exclusive right, for up to twenty years, over the invention described in the issued patent claim. A key aspect that distinguishes patents from other kinds of IP protection is that the published patent documentation must enable a consumer of ordinary skill to make and use the invention.

A trademark is a word, name, logo, symbol, device, or any combination thereof, that can be used as a method of identification for goods or services. Trademarks allow prospective customers to weigh the reputation of the producer of the goods or provider of the services they wish to obtain.

Copyrights protect original artistic works, such as literature, music, films, software, and architecture. They grant their authors the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute copies, prepare derivative works, as well as perform or display the work publicly. Copyright authors do not need to register their work in order to obtain the initial copyright, as they develop right away under common law, but they must be federally registered in order to be enforced.

  1. Patents

There are three types of patents: utility, design, and plant. The kinds that are most useful for filmmakers to know about are utility and design. Generally, the difference is that a utility patent protects the way an invention is used and works while a design patent protects the way an invention looks.

Patents are one of the biggest vehicles that IP law has to offer innovators seeking to create, which would include filmmakers as well as those creating new devices, methods, and procedures to improve the filmmaking process.

First, filmmakers use hardware tools to create their films: cameras, tripods, lighting systems, etc. If you purchased any of these items from a retailer or wholesaler, these objects will all be patented.

When working with these objects every day, it is likely that you’ve come up with improvements that can and should be made to make these items function better. A filmmaker or an innovator seeking to improve the filmmaking field can use patent law to protect any be novel and innovative ways they invent to create sets, carry equipment, etc. If an invention makes a process easier, more efficient, or more innovative, and if is reverse-engineerable for other users, it may be protectable under a patent.

Second, filmmakers use software tools in their films such as CGI, 3D, animation, green screen, etc. These aspects can be patented as manufactures of technology similar to how hardware items are patented.

JD Houvener, Founding Patent Attorney with Bold Patents, says that “as a filmmaker, if you create an novel item to use in a set, a new method or process that will make filmmaking equipment function better, or develop a piece of software to use in the filmmaking process, you can seek patent protection to monetise and share your invention.”

  1. Trademarks

Filmmakers can use trademarks when you trying to build up a brand. Trademarks signify a word or logo that shows people where a product comes from or who the product belongs to. In the filmmaking industry, trademarks can apply to the names of movies, the names of studios, the names of your production company, etc.

Trademarks don’t require federal registration unless you are seeking to enforce; instead, trademarks are protected under common law right away. As soon as you finalise an expression in a tangible mean, others are prohibited from replicating your trademark without your permission. Thus, registration is not absolutely necessary if you are only seeking to showcase your work to family and friends, or at festivals or showcases on a small scale. However, if you are seeking to monetise your work, share it on a widespread, national, or international scale, you would be best off with federally registered trademark protection.

One of the most widely recognised examples of trademark registration in filmmaking is the MGM lion and soundbite that appears at the beginning of an MGM Studios film. Over time, and over hundreds of thousands of showings, consumers began to associate MGM with the lion and with the roar. This is called secondary meaning or trade dress, which is the final piece of trademark protection, and the most difficult to get. It means that the trademark has gained such a significant industry reputation that consumers now know from the sound itself that it refers to MGM.

  1. Copyrights

The primary mode of IP protection for filmmakers is the copyright. The copyright system allows artists, creatives, filmmakers, etc. to come forward with their creations for the betterment of society to increase the overall enjoyment of life for all. Without copyright law, people wouldn’t be able to make a living as an artist. Copyright law allows creatives to monetise their talents.

Filmmakers can copyright their script, their characters, their screenplays, the stage direction, the stage design, etc. They can use specific copyright protections for the words in the script and then again for the performance which deviates or adds to the script with the inclusion of human embodiment.

Copyright law is also common law protection that must be federally registered for enforcement. Then, the final video- whatever filmmakers capture on film as an edited and final product that they seek to publish or sell- should be protected under federal copyright law.

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About 

Carly Klein is a law student at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. A graduate from Boston University with a B.A. in Political Science & Philosophy, she has experience in marketing, communications, and sales. She is a Los Angeles native and seeks to pursue a career in IP & Business Litigation.

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