How to Patent an Idea for a Television Show

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You may have an idea for the next great television show and want to sell your idea to Hollywood producers. Before you do that, though, you need to write out your idea so others can understand it and then protect your idea so no one can steal it. You can protect it by registering it or copyrighting it with numerous organizations, the best being the Writers Guild of America. Once protected, you can send your idea out to anyone without fear of it being stolen.

Write a synopsis or treatment detailing what the show is all about. You can also develop a character list with descriptions of all the main characters as well as an episode guide that tells us briefly the plot of future episodes. Keep all of this as one file and title the pages accordingly.

Visit the Writer's Guild of America website (see Resources). Click on the button "Register Your Work." A window will open. Fill in your personal information, the name of the television show and the format in which the work appears (television bible, script or treatment). Pay the registration fee with a credit card.

Upload the file with your synopsis or treatment. Hit "Enter." Answer the prompt and review the information to ensure it is correct. Your credit card will be charged, and you will receive a confirmation email with your registration number. A certificate of registration will come in the mail with two to four weeks. Open your word document and type the registration number below the title. This will show others that your work is protected.

Access the website for the US Copyright Office (see Resources). Fill out the appropriate paperwork to protect your idea and mail or email the application to the Copyright Office. You will be prompted to pay a fee online with a credit card or you can mail in the payment. Write to the U.S. Copyright Office at 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington D.C. 20559-6000. For additional information, phone them at (202) 707-3000.

Print out your work and take it to a notary. Have that person sign and date the title page of the document detailing your idea after you sign and date it. This will show that you have written and protected this idea on a particular date. Place this work in an envelope and mail it to yourself via registered mail return receipt requested. After it arrives, store the unopened envelope and the receipt (which should arrive in a few days) in a safe place.

Store any registration documents in a safe place. Keep them organized in labeled folders. Make copies and store them in a separate place, preferably out of your house, in case something happens to one of the copies, such as a fire or natural disaster.

Tips & Warnings

  • Proofread your work before submitting it to the registry to be protecte .
  • Continue to update the copyright as you change your documents.

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