Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind.
An intellectual property right (IPR) is the term referring to the legal property rights used to protect intellectual property, and the corresponding fields of law. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; ideas, discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets.
For those of us in the creative sector, we derive our income from that which we create with our imagination. We design. We write. We photograph. We perform. We film. When done well, this can create joy for ourselves and other people. It can also create wealth and job opportunities. We often refer to this activity as “our work” when it’s really our intellectual property. And like any kind of property, it’s important to protect its value.
Here are five guidelines creative entrepreneurs can follow to conserve the value of their intellectual property starting today.
1. Know your rights. If you are producing original content for a client, for publication, or for production, always define the rights to your intellectual property. At some point, you will sell all or limited use of these rights. But they must always be defined, valued, and negotiated as intellectual property rights.
2. Invoice 50/50. Write all agreements so payments are scheduled for 50% upfront and the remaining 50% upon delivery. Never start a project until you’ve received payment. Never release any work until you’ve been compensated. This will keep the client engaged and the project solvent, and you will never have to worry about unpaid or slow-paying invoices again.
3. Donate limited rights to your IP to charities. In the nonprofit world, value is determined by outcome tracking. If nonprofits don’t have the resources to pay for your services, they certainly don’t have the resources to track the outcome. Your contributions are appreciated, but on the accounting books, they would be (sadly) worthless.
Donating only limited rights prevents the nonprofit from taking “creative liberty” with your IP, forces follow-up conversations about the effectiveness of your contribution, opens the conversation as to how you can respond to feedback, and directs the efforts of any outcome tracking.
4. Avoid the temptation of online spec competitions. Read past the persuasive marketing of the websites that host them. It’s in their own best interest to make the “competitions” seem fun and benign. They are neither. They are exploitative and diminish the value of all creatives.
5. Explore means of passive income. This is income derived from the ongoing sale of your IP through merchandising, ad sales, downloads, etc. You’re a creator. You create for others. Create.
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[frame_left src="http://yfsentrepreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Ron-Thompson.jpg"]Ron Thompson[/frame_left]
Ron Thompson is Managing Partner of the Dallas-based venture fund Invest Creative. Capitalized by creatives and invested in creatives, this fund is dedicated to the entrepreneurs in the creative sector who help solve the complicated economic, social, and cultural challenges in their own communities.