A registered copyright is the only way to guard against infringement
The legal world and the media closely monitor every move the Supreme Court makes or considers. However, some rulings attract more attention than others. One that the general public might have overlooked was a 2019 ruling involving infringement claims. Trying to clean up some inconsistent decisions in the Circuit Courts, the high court ruled unanimously that copyright infringement claims are valid only when there is a copyright registered with the United States Copyright Office.
This is a significant shift
Before this ruling, the courts were often more open to protecting copyrightable property even if it was not officially registered with the Copyright Office. For example, the Fifth and Ninth Circuit ruled that protection comes as soon as the owner applies for the copyright and pays the registration fee. The Tenth and Eleventh Circuits, on the other hand, ruled that protection was only valid when the application was approved. In the past, it was sometimes enough to say “patent pending” to dissuade infringers even if the application was later rejected. This phrase is now irrelevant.
What does this mean for applicants?
The processing time can vary but takes several weeks, which means that applicants will are vulnerable during the application process, which can important in fast-moving businesses like technology. Moreover, some thought the application was too long or too expensive. This ruling makes it clear that the only protection is when the companies, inventors, entrepreneurs, or content creators register their idea.