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Confirmed by Supreme Court: Register Copyrights Early to Protect Against Infringement

By Wade Savoy, April 9, 2019

copyright registration protects against infringementThe U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed our advice to copyright owners: Register early. The Court recently ruled in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street Com, LLC, that copyright owners must have their copyright registrations in hand before they can sue for copyright infringement. Some lower courts historically allowed infringement suits to proceed based simply on proof that copyright applications were filed, but the Supreme Court has made clear that this practice is no longer permitted.

As detailed in our previous post, there are many benefits to registering copyrights early, including making recovery of statutory damages and attorneys’ fees possible. Under the Court’s ruling, the ability to get into court quickly, including your ability to obtain a temporary restraining order to stop very costly infringement, is added to that list of benefits.

If you do not register early, you will have to wait months before you can sue an infringer. The Copyright Office estimates an average of six months to process an application, and if there are difficulties with the application, that time will be even longer. Alternatively, you could pay an additional filing fee of $800 to have your application expedited, but the turnaround time is not guaranteed and processing could take a week or more, which might not be quick enough to stop particularly harmful infringement.

The Supreme Court’s decision is a good reminder that you should regularly review your valuable creative assets (e.g., apps, software, websites, print materials, etc.) and register your copyrights before you need to call on them for protection.

If you have questions about copyright protection, our team would be happy to help. Feel free to contact Wade Savoy directly at wsavoy@patentgc.com or to request more information by visiting our Contact Us page.