Scientific Writing Courses

Protecting Your Writing as Valuable Intellectual Property

As a freelance writer you will be responsible for protecting the rights to your intellectual property. Anything you create, be it music, a book, a website, or any other creative piece that comes from your mind is intellectual property. Once it is out on the web or published in any forum, it is fair game for anyone who wants to lay claim to it. Most people understand that if they didn’t write it or record it, or snap the picture then it is not theirs. But the courts are bogged down daily with people saying someone used their creation for commercial gain, without permission. The best way to defend yourself against these plagiarizers is to legally protect your intellectual property as it’s created. Although there is a lot of legal jargon and a few hours of work, it will save you time, money and aggravation in the long run.

What about TRADEMARKS?

When you create a product or information package and name it, that name becomes a trademark of you/the people with whom you created it. Anything you publish or make public or the name of any product or series of products you create should be registered as your trademark. Even if you don’t officially register it, you should include the TM symbol and the words, “(The product) is a trademark of (your name).” There are websites that deal specifically with the legalities of branding your business and products and protecting your rights. Please check with your local, state and federal agencies before you undertake any of this advice. You can also check with an attorney to be sure your rights are protected in any and all situations. To register a trademark in the United States go to the Patent and Trademark Office website at and do a search of your desired trademark. Put the search in quotes to see if there is an exact match. If there isn’t an exact match, search again without the quotes to see if there are any very similar trademarks. You may not get the name you want if it is very like another already registered name. Doing this search yourself, will save you money.

In the US there are different classes of commerce. These classes break down the intellectual property into types. If you are in the music business, for example, you will need to apply in class 9, which includes recorded material. Freelance writers may want to register in classes 9, recorded material including audio, video and software; 16, printed material, including books, newsletters and manuals; 35, consulting, business management and professional services; and 41, education and training materials including workshops and seminars.

To use the ® symbol you have to prove that you are actually using the trademark in commerce.


To protect your written, and spoken, words from plagiarism, go to the United States Library of Congress website at to learn about registering copyrights on all of your intellectual property.

Even before you publish your work it is protected by the copyright law. To benefit from the protection of this law, though, you still need to register your materials, for a fee of around fifty dollars per item. Go to the website to find out exactly how to register your property. Remember to include © followed by the year and your name, after each published piece.

What about Releases?

Any time you want to use someone else’s words or voice for your commercial endeavors, you need to get a release signed. If you have an interview on your website or a testimonial you need to get a release so that you have the right to use their intellectual property for commercial gain. The same holds true for recorded conference calls or webinars that you plan to sell as courses.

You do not want the person on that call to come back years later and demand their cut of the pie, or sue you for using their voice.

These recommendations and websites are for the US only. If you live outside of the US please contact the government in your country to learn how to protect your intellectual property in your own land.

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