Register a Copyright
I formally register a copyright for the picture via the Registrar of Copyrights once the picture is completed. Please refer to the article on copyrights for more information on this process.
The United Stated Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) will grant you exclusive ownership and use over any mark for which it grants you a Trademark. It costs $325 to file an application on line. The USPTO only grants trademarks over marks that are actively in use in commerce. For example, if you are selling DVDs of your animated picture and you are applying to trademark each of the characters (you will have to apply and pay filing fees for each character separately). USPTO has a classification system such that clothing, electronic media, sporting equipment, and household goods are all different classes. In all, there are over 30 classes. If you want to trademark your animated characters in five different classes, you will have to file five applications and pay the filing fee for each one. You have to file and pay the fee again if your application is rejected due to a mistake. The application will also be rejected if there is a competing trademark for the same mark that might cause confusion in the marketplace, or the mark is not in use. Note that you cannot trademark the title of your picture unless is it one of a series. I strongly advise that you pay to have an attorney file your trademark applications, since the filing process is complex and it is easy to make mistakes.