A business plan lays out the steps you plan to take to make a business grow. Although registering a copyright for a business plan is not required, registration can help protect your business plan from plagiarism or unauthorized copying. A copyright will protect the text and images of your business plan, but it will not protect the ideas the text expresses. If you have created a new business method that you want to protect, consider getting a patent on the method.
Make at least two copies of your business plan. These copies can be on paper, or they can be stored electronically on a CD-ROM. Do not store the copies on a floppy disk, a zip disk, or a flash drive, since the U.S. Copyright Office will not accept these formats. You will need to send two copies of your business plan to the U.S. Copyright Office when you register your copyright, so make enough copies so that you will have some left over after you register.
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Choose the type of form you wish to use to register your copyright. Since a business plan is primarily a textual work, the U.S. Copyright Office provides two different ways to register. You may register online using Form eCO, available through the U.S. Copyright Office website. You may also register by filling out paper Form CO. If you use Form CO, you must also use paper Form TX for textual works. The paper forms can be downloaded from the U.S. Copyright Office website.
Decide whether to register the copyright in the business plan's images, if any, separately. This is not required, but it may be valuable if you plan to use any pictures, graphs, diagrams, or other visuals separately from the business plan as a whole. If you decide to register the images separately, you will need to fill out a separate Form eCO or a separate Form CO and Form VA, for visual works, and pay a separate registration fee for each image.
Submit the required items to the U.S. Copyright Office. If you are registering your copyright only in the business plan as a whole, submit two copies of the business plan, either Form eCO or Form CO and Form TX, and the registration fee. As of 2011, the U.S. Copyright Office required a $35 registration fee for works registered on Form eCO and a $50 fee for works registered on Form CO. If you are registering one or more images separately from the business plan, submit the items listed above, plus two copies of each image and another Form eCO or Form CO and Form VA and another registration fee for each image.
Your copyright only protects the form in which you have expressed your business ideas. It does not allow you to sue someone for using the ideas themselves. In order to protect a business method, you will need to file a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
A.L. Kennedy is a professional grant writer and nonprofit consultant. She has been writing and editing for various nonfiction publications since 2004. Her work includes various articles on nonprofit law, human resources, health and fitness for both print and online publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Alabama.