Poor Man’s Copyright is the idea that if a person has created or designed something, but can’t afford to register with a federal trademark office, they can mail themselves a copy of their intellectual property, which will be marked with a federal date stamp. People say this will prove that your piece of intellectual property was created and has been in your possession from this date, and possibly before. Many so-called experts on different websites claim that this is the most effective and cheapest way to hold copyright for your piece since it costs less than a few dollars/euros to mail it.
Poor Man’s Copyright
While this may sound ingenious, it is far from admissible in court. There are multiple complications with this method of dating a piece of intellectual property. People send mail on a regular basis that includes different kinds of property, but they do not receive copyright recognition, making poor man’s copyright no different. Furthermore, a piece of mail will not hold up as solid evidence in court because it can be easily tampered with. The date on mail can be altered and envelopes can be steamed open and have their contents replaced. It is difficult to prove that none of these happened. Therefore, current precedent is to not substitute a federal copyright with poor man’s copyright.
Although different jurisdictions view copyright in different ways, it is true that the most effective method of registering and protecting a piece of intellectual property is by filing for a design patent or design copyright through a federal trademark office. In Italy, Ufficio Italiano Brevetti e Marchi (UIBM) – the Italian Patent and Trademark Office – receives and approves applications for these protections. While it does take a longer amount of time and costs significantly more, it is the only way to protect a piece of work. Moreover, these design protections are recognized within federal courts.