Of all the forms of intellectual property protection – patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets – copyrights are the most affordable to register. Copyrights are the lifeblood of just about every creative type of business, entrepreneur and artist. The general rule in the U.S. is that the copyright in a work MUST be REGISTERED with the U.S. Copyright Office BEFORE a copyright infringement lawsuit can be filed. There are some exceptions to that general rule, most notably in the 9th Circuit due to a recent court decision here. The 9th Circuit consists of California, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and Montana. Thus in the 9th Circuit a copyright infringement lawsuit can be filed if the copyright owner has merely filed a copyright APPLICATION, even if the registration certificate hasn’t issued yet. But in states where the general rule applies, it can be a real drag if you have to wait for the Copyright Office to process your copyright application before you can file your lawsuit. That can take anywhere from 8 – 18 months (or more) – UNLESS you want to pay a “Special Handling” fee of $760 on top of the regular $35 fee. The Special Handling fee will usually get the Copyright Office to register your copyright in about 10 days or less. When it comes to copyrights, our motto is: “Register early and often”.
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