What’s the Deal with Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents?

As an artrepreneur, intellectual property might be a very important piece of your creative business. So, let’s talk about what kinds of protection you can obtain.

Trademarks, copyrights, patents… oh my! How do you know what kind of protection is best for your intellectual property (IP)? Let’s start by reviewing these 3 major players.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Intellectual property protections such as these do not necessarily prevent someone from using your brand name, original artwork, etc. Instead, these protections give you the ability to approach someone who is using your protected work and ask them to stop. In reality, these protections give you the ability to sue another person or business who is using your IP without your permission.

Trademark: typically protects brand names, logos, and slogans
Example: Kayla’s Amazing Business Name

Trademarks are fairly straightforward, but there are some things you should be aware of before applying to register your “mark.”

  1. Basic marks vs Design marks
    Basic marks refer specifically to sequences of letters, like “Kayla’s Amazing Business Name.” This kind of mark protects the business name when it is used in any style or design, without any additional specificities. This might make more sense after describing a design mark. A design mark, as its named, only protects the design of the mark you’ve registered. So, if you register “Kayla’s Amazing Business Name” as a design mark, it will only be protected when its used in the exact design as you’ve registered–it’s only protected if someone uses the name in the same font, color, and general design scheme that you’ve registered.

Business or brand names are usually registered as a basic mark because you’re protected regardless the name’s design. Generally, logos are registered as design marks, because you want to protect the actual design of the logo, not just the words being used.

Class of goods and services
When you file for a trademark, you will register your “mark” under a certain “goods and services” category. For example, if you design clothing and want to trademark your business name, you would file your mark under category 025, which covers most kinds of basic clothing products. This is important because your protection only applies to your specific goods/services category.

For example: If there is another “Kayla’s Amazing Business Name” in the Clothing category, your registration will be denied. However, if there is another “Kayla’s Amazing Business Name” registered under the Health Services category, then you’re in the clear. There can be multiple trademarks for “Kayla’s Amazing Business Name,” as long as they are in separate goods/services categories. Search for your goods/service category here.

Likelihood of confusion
Goods and services categories are important because the USPTO takes the “likelihood of confusion” into heavy consideration when reviewing your application. The idea of “likelihood of confusion” is based on the fact that consumers should NOT easily confuse your mark with another.

For example: If you want to trademark “Kayla’s Amazing Business Name” but there already exists a “Kayla’s Amazing Business Name” in your goods/services category, your registration may be denied on the basis of “likelihood of confusion”–consumers could easily confuse the two marks.

Another example: Grinds Coffee and Grindz Coffee. The two are too similar to exist in the same goods and services category, so the second application will be denied.

It’s important to do your research before applying, because you’ll pay the application fee even if you’re not approved. Search the trademark database here. Trademarks are registered through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and can take anywhere from 2 months to 2 years to be approved. From my experience, a proper registration is usually finalized within 3-6 months. Trademarks are good for 10 years, with a check-in after year 5. Expect to pay $225-275 for trademark in a single goods/services category.

Copyright: typically protects artistic or literary works
Example: Kayla’s Original Novel

Copyrights are interesting because technically, every original artwork is automatically copyrighted as soon as you’ve created it. So this begs the question: Why register a copyright at all? Registering a copyright allows you to bring about a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work by helping you prove that you created the registered work on or before a certain date. Some people choose to forgo the registration and instead obtain a “poor man’s copyright” by mailing their work to themselves. Doing so provides a verified date, but does not list your copyright in the public registry list and is not considered legitimate declaration of ownership in court. If you want to make it official, it’s probably best to go for the registration.

Copyrights can be registered through the U.S. Copyright Office. Click here to visit their FAQ page: “Registering a Work.” Copyright applications tend to have a quick turn-around time; expect to wait up to 3 months for your approval. Copyrights last for the duration of the author’s life plus 70 years. At the time of this article’s publication, it costs $45 to file a single copyright.

Patent: typically protects inventions
Example: Kayla’s Totally Unique Product Invention

Patents are the most difficult type of IP protection to obtain. I would suggest that you look for a patent expert or attorney to help you with the filing process. However, here are some basic things to know when considering a patent.

There are three main kinds of patents:

  1. Utility patent: new or improved, and useful, product, process, or
    machine. [provisional or non-provisional]
  2. Design patent: distinct configuration, surface ornamentation, or
    both.
  3. Plant patents: invents or discovers, and asexually reproduces, any
    new variety of plant. [provisional or non-provisional]

Utility and plant patent applications can be filed with either a provisional or
non-provisional application. A provisional application is only good for one year; it’s meant to establish an early filing date for a future non-provisional application, displaying your intent to file. A non-provisional application contains the official invention description and provides official, formal protection for the patent.

Patents are generally approved in about two years, but it can take longer. Obtaining a patent is much more expensive than trademarks and copyrights, as the process can cost anywhere between $1-15k. I don’t have in-depth experience with patenting, and it can be a complicated process. So I usually advise my clients to find a patent attorney, local maker-space with knowledgeable inventors, or other reliable resources–I’d suggest the same to you. For some products, patents can be crucial; for others, patents really aren’t a need. Ask yourself: Is my invention truly novel? If so, a patent might be right for your creative business.


NOTE: The is no form of IP protection that will protect an idea. Learn more about IP protection to understand how you can partially protect your idea by protecting some of its tangible aspects.

So, after this basic introduction to trademarks, copyrights, and patents, what kinds of IP protection, if any, are right for you?

Reminder: Subscribe to Artrepreneurship – where ‘art’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ meet to get more helpful information sent straight to your inbox!

Peace, Kayla

Note: This article is meant to be educational, and is not intended to provide legal advice.

The Importance of Distribution

“If content is king, distribution is the kingdom.”

Distribution channels are one of the most important components to an artrepreneur’s business model. Artists are infamously reliant on distributors to share their work with the world. Becoming an artrepreneur is all about understanding how to build a system of content creation and content distribution. So don’t underestimate the importance of distribution.

Imagine building the most epic, innovative, beautiful art piece, only to realize that there was absolutely no way to share it with anyone else? Of course, the satisfaction that comes from being it’s creator is enough to fulfill the artist’s soul. But the artrepreneur is looking to create something incredible that’s capable of filling both their soul and their pockets. In order to do this, the artrepreneur must develop a strategy to share that work with others (in a way that will make them want to spend money to experience it). That’s where broadcast distribution comes in.

Author Derek Thompson wrote a book called Hit Makers that’s all about how things become popular. He looks at trends like baby names and fashion, and hits like Star Wars and 50 Shades of Grey, then develops and debunks theories as to how and why these hits became hits. It’s a great read for any aspiring artrepreneur. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on one of his main points:

“If content is king, distribution is the kingdom.”

Let’s look at a popular example: Erika Mitchell, author of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, was a popular fan fiction writer with over 5 million readers before she wrote and released the first 50 Shades of Grey novel. When she released the book on her page, hundreds of her existing fans reviewed it on Goodreads and caught the attention of Random House Publisher. After being published by the reputable publisher, the novel caught the attention of New York Times, which further broadcasted the novel to hundreds of thousands of readers and viewers, who then talked about the book with lots of their friends. This trail is important to follow because it exemplifies the importance of strong distribution channels. Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t blow up just because of its content; it became a true hit because of its strong distribution pattern.

Challenge: Think about and write down as many potential broadcast distribution channels for your product or service as you can. Then, evaluate each with your business model in mind. Think about which are most attainable/feasible and the reach that each provides. Select 2-5 and get to work on implementing them! Consider individuals, organizations, movements, softwares, and more!

For example: At CREATIONS Film, we’re currently working on building up our broadcast distribution channels so that more people can be exposed to our work. Here’s what our first brainstorm looked like:

Potential Broadcast Distribution Channels:
Art museums
Film festivals*
“Choice” playlists (like Vimeo’s “Staff Picks”)
Relevant non-profit organizations*
Movie theater pre-movie ads/content
Artists/celebrities who support our brand/message*

We decided to focus on the three starred* channels first. Now we are doing some of the ground work to secure these broadcast channels, in order to help us reach more people than our own channels alone would allow. To do this, we’ve developed strategies to help us approach and work with each potential distribution channel.

Remember: This process can take weeks, so be patient as you brainstorm and test your ideas. The purpose of this article is to get you thinking about potential distribution channels that can help you share your art-based products or services. Remember to visit and update your business model often, and don’t be afraid to take a chance on distribution channels that might seem out of reach. Good luck!

NOTE: Before you start the ground work to secure large broadcast channels, make sure that you are ready to accept their help. You’ll want to have enough quality content to ensure that once people are sent to you/your page, they will stay, become fans, and hopefully become clients/customers.

Peace, Kayla

P.S. Follow Artrepreneurship – where ‘art’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ meet to get fresh, new content sent straight to your inbox!

I’m an Artrepreneur. When Do I Need a Business License?

As an artist, you probably don’t have a ton of experience with the legal side of business. In fact, one of the most common questions I hear from clients is: When do I need a business license?

So let’s talk about business licensing.

A business license is a registration with your state, county, and/or city that allows you to conduct business in that area; it allows you to legally exchange goods/services for money. So, it’s a good idea to obtain your business license before you exchange your product or service for cash for the first time.

Seems easy enough, right? But we can’t forget that there are multiple kinds of business licenses. To fully prepare you for obtaining your business license, let’s talk about the following:

NOTE: Business licensing varies from state to state, but the following information is generally the same no matter where you live. For more detailed information regarding special rules in your state, reach out to your local Small Business Development Center!

Sole Proprietorship / General Partnership

Becoming licensed as a sole proprietor or general partnership might be a good fit for your creative business early on. As a sole prop, you ARE your business. Generally, your business license will be registered under your name, and you can obtain a DBA (see below) in order to operate under another name. Come tax season, all your income is taxed as personal income. In this scenario, there is no separation between yourself and your business. Most independent contractors and freelancers file for this kind of business license. In Nevada, you might expect to pay about $225 for your initial registration.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

A Limited Liability Company gives you a bit of separation between yourself and your company. In this case, you’re creating a separate business that is strongly connected to you, the owner. In order to maintain separation, all your business finances must be separate from your personal finances. Otherwise, you could still be held liable on the company’s behalf. What’s special about an LLC is that, come tax time, you will have two filing options: 1) You can be taxed as a general partnership and count all your profits as personal income–they will be taxed accordingly. 2) You can be taxed as a S-Corp, allowing you to take your own salary, then have the leftover profits taxed as earned income. Each taxing structure is different and will give you a different net profit after taxes are removed. I usually recommend that clients don’t file their taxes as an S-Corp until they’re making at least $75k a year. Consult with your tax person to learn more and find out which option is best for you. To file for an LLC in Nevada, you might expect to pay $425 for your initial registration.

NOTE: An LLC is a cool hybrid that gives you flexibility come tax time. But remember, you must keep all finances and operations separate from your personal life in order to avoid liability in the case of a lawsuit.

C-Corporation

When you file as a Corporation, you are creating a legal entity that is entirely separate from yourself. It acts, and can be prosecuted, on its own. This means that you are (usually) completely protected from liability should the company be sued. However, Corporations must have their own Board of Directors and are often run in the interest of the shareholders, which isn’t always just you. Filing as a Corporation gives you the most protection, but can also reduce the amount of control you have over your creative business. In Nevada, you might expect to pay about $700 for your initial registration.

(Non-Profit)
If you’re interested in becoming a non-profit organization, you must first become a C-Corporation, and then file additional paperwork in order to obtain non-profit status. When thinking about becoming a non-profit, you must think about your potential revenue streams. If your most likely revenue streams are grants and donations, then becoming a non-profit might be a good fit for you.

Don’t Forget

EIN (Employer Identification Number)
After filing for a business license, you must register your business with the IRS. You will receive an EIN to help you identify your business when you file federal taxes at the end of the year.

State Tax Registration
You must also register with your state tax agency. Most states have an online portal where you can create an account and pay your taxes digitally. State taxes are generally paid quarterly, so make sure to stay up-to-date to avoid unnecessary fees.

Doing Business As (DBA) aka Fictitious Firm Name
Some businesses file their business license under one name (i.e. Kayla’s Business) but want to operate under a different name (i.e. Kayla’s Super Awesome Business). If this applies to you, you’ll want to file for a DBA with your county. DBA’s usually cost about $25.

Special Licensing
Depending on your type of business, you may need to file for additional licenses and/or permits (such as liquor licenses or cabaret licenses). Reach out to your local licensing office, or your local Small Business Development Center, if you think you might require additional licensing.

Remember: Licenses are generally renewed every year, so don’t file for your state business license until you’re truly ready to start conducting business. Practice truth and evaluate your business model realistically… is your creative business ready for launch?

What other questions do you have about the legality of starting your own art-based business? Drop them in the comments below! And don’t forget to follow Artrepreneurship – where ‘art’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ meet to get helpful content sent straight to your inbox.

Peace, Kayla

NOTE: I am not an attorney. This article is educational, and therefore not meant to provide legal advice.

The Importance of Stages in Artrepreneurship

A culture of instant gratification, 0 to 100, now or never, is becoming more and more prominent–don’t let it jeopardize your artrepreneurial success.

With false expectations of what it means to build a creative business, many artrepreneurs are left disappointed. I’ve seen dozens of clients face “failure” because of their own failure to address the importance of stages in their entrepreneurial journey. Should they have prepared properly, they could have obtained the success they were looking for.

NOTE: It’s true–not all paths are the same. Some people work through these stages one at a time, some work through multiple at once, and some jump between stages throughout their journey. Do what’s best for you, but remember to at least think through each stage during your preparation process.

PREPARATION

Study the market – Take some time to understand what’s already being offered. Don’t forget to think about competitors and target markets that aren’t immediately obvious. Here are some resources to help you.

Master the craft – Learn as much as you can about your art and the business in which you will operate. You don’t have to become an expert before you start your artrepreneurial journey, but you should work on becoming an expert as soon as you can.

Build a solid business model – Before you jump into launching your creative business, make sure you have a game plan. Better yet, your game plan should be backed by data or experience. And that’s where TESTING comes in:

TESTING

Test your product – As you’re developing your product or service, it’s important to test it as you go. You don’t want to build what seems like the perfect product, only to find out that your customers actually hate it’s design or functionality.

Test the target market -After studying the market, you should have a good idea of who your target customers are; but, its helpful to confirm your assumptions. Approach your target market, have them interact with your product or service, and ask them to provide feedback about their experience.

Test your pricing – As you’re working on testing your product and target market, don’t forget to test out your pricing, too. After you’ve interacted with customers, ask them about the pricing. Would they pay XX amount for this? If they say yes, great–you might even be able to increase the price a bit. If they say no, you’ll know your pricing is too high. Read more about how to price your work here.

LAUNCH

Take what you’ve learned and apply it – As you work through the preparation and testing phases, remember to make note of the insights you discover. Don’t forget to incorporate what you’ve learned into your future business decisions. If that means adjusting your business model or product offering, do it.

Take your creative business full time – Once you’ve gotten to a place where you’ve tested your business model and have secured your first few clients/customers, it might be time to take your business full time. However, some businesses can be launched as a side hustle, so think about what is right for you and your creative business.

Consider looking for additional funding (if applicable)Depending on your business model, you might need additional funding to start up your business. Read this article to learn more about financing and discover what’s right for your creative business.


Building a successful business is about the long game–build a good foundation and success will come more easily in the future. Take the time to work through each artrepreneurial stage and watch your artrepreneurial vision come to life.

Remember: Your artrepreneurial journey will consist of many levels. Don’t be so eager to get to level 100, that you forget to enjoy the levels in between. Levels 5, 20, and 80 all come with their own satisfactions. Don’t miss out on the journey because you’re too focused on the final destination.

For more straight-to-the-point information about artrepreneurship, follow Artrepreneurship – where ‘art’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ meet.

Peace, Kayla

Feel Like You’re Not Making Enough Progress? Here’s What To Do About It

VLOG: We all feel a little behind sometimes. Christopher Reed shares his advice for how to move forward.

(Part 2) Meet Christopher Reed, co-founder of Creation Film–my business partner and husband. Christopher gives some insights to living the life of an artrepreneur.

Don’t have time to watch? Here’s a RECAP:

1. Understand the stage you’re in and enjoy it. If your artrepreneurial journey has 100 stages within it, enjoy stages 5, 25, and 75, because you will never be there again.

2. You should become an expert in what you do. Becoming a master of any craft takes time, so take advantage of the learning process.

3. Building a business takes time; be patient in building a solid business model and plan, and then executing them.

We all feel like we aren’t making enough progress sometimes. Let go of your expectations and do your best at staying focused and determined.
Remember: The journey of building your own art-based business is what it’s all about. Of course, you’ll always have a destination in mind, but don’t ignore the joy of actually getting there.

Follow Artrepreneurship – where ‘art’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ meet for more information that will make your artrepreneurial journey easier!

Peace, Kayla