Regardless of your holistic specialty, I'm willing to bet that you have intellectual property that is protected by copyright or trademark law. Until recently I knew only a little about what's covered by such laws.

I put off learning about Copyrights, Trademarks, and Registration because I mistakenly thought they were only for authors of books or big mega-companies. I also assumed it was a pain in the butt, involving endless layers of paperwork.

The great news is the basic processes couldn't be easier!

If you don't think you have any intellectual property, think again. Even if you provide an in-person, hands on service, such as acupuncture, massage, Reiki, or energy healing, you may have intellectual property that you share with your clients via written or recorded formats. Or have you ever created pictures, graphics, music, drama, or sculptures; all of which are protected by law?

Knowledge of a few important processes can also keep you from running afoul of the law by duplicating what another business or individual has created.

For a short and painless primer, read on:

Copyright: Most of what you present in writing on your website, in newsletters, brochures, and handouts is eligible for copyright protection, including sound and graphic files. Copyright law typically protects your writings, drawings, or musical creations and your ability to control public distribution, adaptation and display of your original self-expression and work.

According to and the Library of Congress, your expression in words, art or music is copyrighted as soon as it is created on paper, recorded or otherwise made permanent. You do not have to "do" anything to have your work protected by copyright law, although it is beneficial to take a few simple steps!

At the very least, you should include the copyright symbol, ©, on your original works to remind the public that your work is protected by copyright and thus negate a claim by another that they did not know the material was protected.

The format for expressing copyright is to include the copyright symbol, ©, or the word "Copyright", the year of first publication of the work, and the name of the owner of the copyright. For example: © 2005 Anne Kelly

Registration of your copyright through the Library of Congress at is desirable to protect substantial works, and creates a public record. Fees are reasonable and start at between $35 and $45. Once your copyright is registered, you are entitled to use the "R" symbol to inform the public that your work is registered.

Trademark: Your trademark is your symbol to the world, and you want that to belong exclusively to you. Trademark law protects a name, symbol, word; even colors, shapes and combinations of these. And as with copyright, you do not have to "do" anything to claim your original trademark as your own, although there may be cases when registering your trademark is to your greatest benefit.

To claim rights to your trademark and alert the public of your claim, use the "TM" symbol, regardless of whether you have registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

To recap the basics:

A copyright protects an original article or literary work, a trademark protects a word, phrase, symbol or design; and registration creates a public record of your ownership of said rights.

This basic primer is intended to introduce you to Copyright, Trademark and Registration; I am not a business lawyer and I have not begun to cover the multiple layers of information beneath each definition. Though I will also say you don't need a professional to begin educating yourself on the basics of these statues, all of which serve to protect your intellectual property.

For further information I encourage you to visit:

United States Copyright Office,
Library of Congress,
US Patent and Trademark Office,

Author's Bio: 

Anne Kelly coaches holistic entrepreneurs who want to earn a good living while doing what they love. For free tips and articles on building your holistic business subscribe to Anne’s monthly newsletter, delivered to your e-mail address (privacy guaranteed). Read an archive of articles and subscribe today at (301) 693-9580