IP Law and the Book Publishing Industry

Intellectual property (IP) law is a vital part of virtually every industry, and the vast domain stretches to book publishing as well.

Everything from copyrights to trademarks and trade secrets can be applied, so it’s important to make sure you have a general understanding of the legal parts of the publishing process.

Fortunately, you really only need to understand the basics. Patent attorneys are always available for help with more detailed areas of intellectual property, so you just need to make sure you have a general grasp of what you need to know.

Here is an introductory guide to IP law and the book publishing industry to help get you started!

Copyright Law

There are several different areas of IP law, and copyrighting will be one of the most important with book publishing since it covers the protection of original artwork (including writing).

One of the best and most important parts of a copyright is that the original work does not need to already be published to acquire protection. The artwork is protected from the moment of creation, and you can hold people accountable as soon as you have proof of that creation (recordings, timestamps, etc.).

That said, it’s also important to note that copyrights protect the expression of the idea (the musical notes, words, etc.) rather than the idea itself. This means that writing a song about someone’s book idea wouldn’t technically be copyright infringement.

By owning the copyright, you have the exclusive rights to:

  • Reproduce and distribute that work
  • Display/perform that work in a public manner
  • Produce derivative copies of the work
  • Rent copies of the work
  • Put the work on the Internet

Another generous factor of copyrights is how long they last. They typically last the entire lifespan of the original creator/owner and then an additional 70 years after, making it nearly impossible for anyone in the same lifetime as the author to infringe upon the work.

Copyrights are protected on the federal level and while official registration is needed to sue infringing parties, the common law still gives the author the rights to their work upon creation regardless of formal registration.

Trademarks & Trade Secrets

While copyright law is one of the main ways that IP law can be applied to writing and publishing, trademarks and trade secrets also serve an important purpose.

Trademarks cover intellectual property that is related to the branding of something, and the advantages of trademarks rest in the ability to market products or works with a reputation that can be recognized by consumers.

Things like drawings, symbols, sounds, smells, colors, and other distinguishable features can qualify for a trademark. In publishing, this includes:

  • Titles
  • Phrases or slogans
  • Initials
  • Proper, character and author names
  • Publication size and shape
  • Single words 

Trademarks should ultimately convey a sense of reliability to a consumer. Some readers will recognize publishing houses and know they can trust the quality of a work based on that reputation, making brand awareness just as important as other important elements that consumers look for.

Trade secrets cover information that is of value to a brand. Confidentiality is critical in the publishing industry since the publisher is being trusted with an author’s transcript, meaning they cannot disclose the contents to anyone else.

Managing the Rights

Understanding the relevant protection is only part of the battle. Managing the IP rights of both the author and the publisher is an important part of the process, and one of the best ways to do so is by consulting an IP attorney to make sure contracts are clear and airtight.

The good news here is that even if you are looking at hefty price tags for an attorney, many offices will be more than happy to have a conversation with you about your needs and concerns free of charge.

J.D. Houvener, a patent attorney, believes that free consultations and advice are a necessary part of IP law:

“The reason that I and so many others offer these consultations is that it’s just as important for us as for the client. It’s important to make sure everything is in order and eligible for protection before we sit down and really work on a contract or application. Plus, it guarantees that we and the client are the best possible match; sometimes, other attorneys would be a better fit.”

Even though the book publishing industry doesn’t have much of a need for more intensive protection like patents, it’s still important to get an attorney into the room to make sure everything is laid out properly and everyone is comfortable with the arrangements.

In Summary

IP law sounds like an area that is most relevant to business and entrepreneurship. While inventing and making products is indeed a big part of it, artistic areas like the book publishing industry require just as much (if not more) protection and careful attention.

By understanding how copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets apply, it’s a lot easier to know how to proceed in a way that leaves everyone feeling secure with their intellectual property. And, of course, consulting a patent attorney will make everything feel more legitimate and secure.