How to Patent a Story

Rich Goldstein

Founder & Principal Patent Attorney

I know that in addition to writer’s block, the other major challenge writers face is protecting their work from intellectual theft. If you’re a budding writer looking to get published, you will soon find it can be quite a hassle.

Through my years of publishing stories, I’ve come to find that the most effective way to protect your intellectual material is to patent your story.

So, in addition to personal experience, I’ve done more research to get the most updated information on this patenting process. In this article, I want to walk you through how to patent a story, and copyrights and their crucial role. To start – how to patent a story. 

How to Patent a Story 

To patent a story, you need to own and register its copyrights. The difference between these two terms is that while a patent protects original inventions, a copyright protects original artistic works, such as writings, music, and art. Ideally, when you conceive and write the idea for a book, you already own the copyright. 

However, merely owning a copyright doesn’t offer you much in the way of protection. You must register the copyright with the U.S. copyright office for maximum legal protection. This process could be pretty complex, and this article will simplify it. In addition, a patent attorney can help the process along significantly. 

What Is Copyright?

Copyright grants exclusive legal rights to the authors of creative works to publish, reproduce, display, distribute, and perform their works, including literary, musical, and artistic works. Copyright works by helping creators protect their intellectual property from unauthorized use by others.

An image of a book, pen, notebook and eyeglass on a wooden table

How Does Copyright Protection Work?

The United States Copyright law is governed by the Copyright Act of 1976. As mentioned earlier, an author immediately owns the copyrights to a story they write. They do not have to file for a copyright. However, registering this copyright officially gives them stronger legal protection, making it easier to establish that they are the actual owner of the work if a dispute ever arises.  

As a general rule, copyrights filed after January 1978 last for the author’s lifetime, plus 70 years after death. Once the copyright expires, the work enters the public domain. For anonymous, pseudonymous, or work made for hire, the copyright lasts 95 years from initial publication or 120 years from the year of creation, depending on which expires first. 

The terms for works published before 1978 would depend on various factors. 

Is There International Copyright Protection?

No, international copyright protection that automatically protects a creative work worldwide does not exist. Copyright protection is usually country-specific, with their terms varying based on the country’s laws where the copyright is claimed. However, a degree of international copyright protection can be obtained through some international agreements and treaties. 

Most notable is the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Work established in 1886. With this agreement, once a work is created in one member country, it is automatically granted copyright protection in all other member countries. More than 181 countries out of 195 worldwide are members of the Berne Convention. 

Additionally, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an agreement administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO). It requires all member countries to provide minimum standards for protecting intellectual property, including copyright rights to authors and holders of related rights, including performers .

Benefits of Registering the Copyrights to Your Book

Officially registering the copyrights to your book provides you with much more than legal protection. Some of the other benefits include: 

Exclusive Rights

Copyright grants you, as the author, exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display your book. This means you can control how your work is used and decide who can reproduce or distribute it.

If someone reproduces or distributes your book without your consent, you have the legal right to take action against them. This is why learning how to patent a story is crucial. 

Presume Validity

Once your book is officially copyrighted, it is presumed to be a valid and original creation. This ensures that if someone were to challenge the validity of your copyright, they would have to prove that your copyright is invalid. 

This strengthens your position in case of a legal dispute and makes it easier for you to defend your copyright in legal proceedings.

Financial Benefits

With your copyright registered, you can monetize your work through various channels such as book sales, licensing, and adaptations. You can also negotiate contracts and licenses, allowing you to earn income from your creative efforts.

A pile of different books

Negotiating Power

When dealing with publishers, agents, or other parties interested in your book, having a registered copyright strengthens your negotiating position by. You can negotiate terms related to how your work will be used, ensuring that you retain control and receive fair compensation.

When to Register Your Copyright

Registering your book’s copyright before publishing it is generally advisable. This process is more straightforward, less expensive, and prevents early copyright infringement. It is best for the book to be in its final draft before starting the copywriting process, as you need to submit copies of the work to register. 

Note, however, that the entire copyrighting process can take six to 13 months to be finalized, so do not wait until you complete the process before publishing the book. 

Examples of Copyright for Books

Here are some examples of copyright notices that might be formatted for different types of books. 

Fiction Copyright Example

The Enchanted GardenJane A. Novel 
© 2023 Jane A. Novel. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, companies, organizations, places, events, locales, and incidents are either used in a fictitious manner or are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, actual companies or organizations, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Non-fiction Copyright Example

The Science of StarsDr. Astrid Parker
© 2021 Astrid Parker. All rights reserved. 
No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law.
Every effort has been made by the author and publishing house to ensure that the information contained in this book was correct as of press time. The author and publishing house hereby disclaim and do not assume liability for any injury, loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, regardless of whether any errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. Readers are encouraged to verify any information contained in this book prior to taking any action on the information.

Memoir Copyright Example

A Life UnveiledMichael Jordan
Copyright © 2023 by Michael Jordan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

How to Copyright a Book 

The process of registering the copyright to your book can be completed in four steps. Here are the steps broken down in detail: 

An image of a woman holding a book

Step 1: Create Your Copyright 

As an author, your copyright is automatically created when you write your ideas in a tangible form. This means the moment you put your words on paper or type them out, your copyright is created, just like that.  

Step 2: Register Your Copyright Claim

The next thing to do is register your copyright claim formally. You can do this by submitting a claim to the copyright office. There are two methods for registration: electronic and physical.

Electronic Registration for Copyright

To register your copyright electronically, follow the following steps: 

  1. Go to the U.S Copyright Office’s registration portal 
  2. Scroll down on the page and click on “Literary Works”
  3. Next, click on “Register a Literary Work” 
  4. This will take you to a login page. If you are a new user, create an account. If you are an existing user, login 
  5. Once logged in, look on the left side of the screen, where it says “Register a Work,” and click “Standard Application.” You may also click “Register One Work by One Author” to see if you are eligible. This method is less expensive than the standard application 
  6. Click “Start Registration” to begin your registration. Complete the provided form by inputting the required information. Click on the Help Link if you need help 
  7. Pay the U.S. Copyright Office registration filing fee 
  8. Upload a copy of your book
  9. Click “Complete Your Submission” once you’re done 

Physical Registration for Copyright

To register your copyright physically, follow the following steps:

  1. Download the Form TX from the U.S. Copyright Office website
  2. Fill out the form 
  3. Mail the completed form, a copy of your book, and the appropriate payment.

Step 3: Include a Copyright Notice

Although it’s not required, including a copyright notice on your book signals to others that you are aware of your rights, this notice typically includes:

An image of woman with her hand on the books along with some series lights
  1. The copyright symbol (©)
  2. The year of first publication. Also include the year of the newest publication, if applicable 
  3. Your name 

For example: “© 2023 [Your Name].”

Step 4: Format Your Copyright Page

Finally, you must ensure your book’s copyright page contains all the essential information. This page usually appears near the beginning of the book and typically includes details such as:

  • The author’s name
  • The year of publication
  • An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for identification
  • A reservation of rights
  • The book edition
  • The copyright symbol and any disclaimers 

For printed works, the text should align on the bottom left. Additionally, the font should be smaller than the one used in the rest of the book.

How Much Does It Cost to Copyright a Book?

At the time of writing this article, the filing fees for copyrighting a book are: 

  • Electronic registration, single application: $45
  • Electronic registration, standard application: $65
  • Paper registration, Form TX: $125

Copyright Terms You Need to Know

Authors need to understand specific key terms related to copyright to ensure they fully understand their rights. The following are some copyright terms that you should know: 

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses, reproduces, or distributes a copyrighted work without the copyright holder’s permission, thereby violating the exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder.

Libelous Writing

Libelous writing involves publishing or circulating written content that contains false and defamatory statements about an individual.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work, ideas, or intellectual property as your own or incorporating their work as part of yours without giving proper credit or permission.

Fair Use

Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows the use of copyrighted material under certain circumstances, such as for criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.

An image of a shelf with different books

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property refers to the creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, and symbols. Intellectual property is protected by law through trade secrets, trademarks, patents and copyrights .

Public Domain Work

A work is considered in the public domain when its copyright has expired or the creator has explicitly waived their rights. Works in the public domain are free for use by the public, and no permission or licensing is required.

Related Questions 

How Do You Protect an Original Story?

You can protect an original story by registering the copyrights. This grants the author exclusive rights to the story, as well as other legal rights. While registration of copyrights is not mandatory, it promotes your legal standing and allows you to seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees in case of infringement. 

Do I Have to Renew My Copyright?

No, you do not have to renew your copyright. For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright lasts for the author’s life plus 70 years. After this period, the work enters the public domain, and no renewal is required. Renewal is optional for works created before January 1, 1978, and can be done after 28 years. 

How Long Does My Copyright Last?

The duration of copyright protection varies depending on when it was created. Works created after January 1, 1978, have a copyright duration that lasts the author’s life plus 70 years. If a team creates a work or is a “work for hire,” the term is 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter. 

Conclusion

Authors automatically create copyrights upon tangibly writing their ideas. Although not compulsory, registering your copyright gives you a better legal standing. If you want to register the copyrights to your story, follow the steps provided above. 

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