Are you focused on making your business a brand? Are you creating your own designs, logos, and assets to separate yourself from the competition? If you said yes to either one of those questions, it’s crucial you learn the differences between copyright vs trademark.
In plain view, both copyright and trademark are meant to protect your business, intellectual property, and creations from being copied, stolen, or claimed. But there is a big difference between copyright and trademark when you read the fine print.
It’s not easy to read copyright laws and trademark regulations and get just what they mean.
But in this blog, I’ve broken down that jargon to answer one question: What’s the difference between copyright and trademark, and how do they impact your brand and business?
What is copyright?
Copyright is an aspect of intellectual property that protects original creations as soon as they’re recorded in a tangible form. These creations can take various forms, such as:
- music compositions,
- computer programs, and even
- blog posts and
Anyone who creates an original work and fixes it in a tangible form is automatically considered the copyright owner. Whether you take a photograph, write a poem, or compose a song, you are the author and the copyright owner of that work.
As a copyright holder, you get the sole rights to reproduce, distribute, and perform all works in the public domain and to display them.
Plus, copyright ownership can extend beyond individual creators, too. Companies and organizations that hire for works gain copyright ownership of everything created. Ownership can also arise from contracts, assignments, wills, or bequests.
To qualify for copyright protection, a work must meet two key criteria:
|Originality||The work is independently created by a human author with a minimal level of creativity. |
Elements like titles, names, short phrases, symbols, or lists of ingredients are generally not considered creative and therefore not protected by copyright.
|Fixation||The work is captured in a permanent medium, allowing it to be perceived, reproduced, or communicated for an extended period.|
What does a copyright protect?
Original works of authorship that are contained within a physical medium are protected by copyright. Copyright pertains to intellectual and creative works that have been recorded or documented in some way.
Here are some of the products that copyright law protects:
- Literary work: Novels, poems, essays, or Slogans.
- Musical work: Songs, jazz composition, recordings, symphony, or lyrics.
- Dramatic work: Plays, screenplays, operas, dialogues, or dramatized videos.
- Software: Operating systems, productivity software, video games, or visuals.
- Architectural work: Museums, skyscrapers, or bridges.
What is a trademark?
A trademark refers to an easily recognizable symbol, phrase, or word that denotes a specific product or brand.
It legally sets that product or service apart from all others of its kind and acknowledges the company’s ownership of the brand. Trademarks are a vital aspect of intellectual property protection. And the best thing is that they can be registered or unregistered!
Often marked with ® or ™, these symbols are more than just legal distinctions. They play a crucial role in helping your target audience identify and trust your products or services.
Essentially, trademarks act as the unique signature of a company or individual and can include:
- Brand names,
- And more.
Plus, there’s a similar concept called a service mark! The only difference is that it serves the same purpose but for services rather than products.
The primary function of trademarks is to prevent unauthorized use of a company’s products or services by others. They also prohibit the use of symbols or names that could cause confusion with existing trademarks, especially if the products or services are related.
What does a trademark protect?
As an entrepreneur, your business’s creative ideas are perhaps your biggest assets. And when it comes to copyright vs trademark, registered trademarks protect quite a lot of the creatives, given US trademark laws.
Trademarks protect the following types of intellectual property for your small business:
- Brand names,
- Business name,
- Brand design elements.
Famous examples of trademarks are all around you. Here are some examples of trademarks:
Difference between copyright vs trademark
Copyright and trademark are two distinct forms of intellectual property protection. Each of them serves different purposes and protects various aspects of creative and commercial assets. But keep in mind that they’re both intellectual property laws!
Copyright primarily focuses on creative and original works as we already mentioned earlier. It grants the creator or author exclusive rights to:
- perform, and
- create derivative works based on their original creations.
Copyright protection automatically comes into effect the moment a work is fixed in a tangible medium, like writing a book or composing a song. In easy words, as long as the idea is out of your head, it’s protected under copyright laws!
You can also go the extra mile with federal copyright registration. But it’s not required to establish copyright ownership.
On the other hand, trademark protection is designed to safeguard anything related to your brand’s identity. It doesn’t protect much of your creative work unless we’re talking about a logo, brand name, and slogans.
Unlike copyright, trademark protection is not automatically applied either! In fact, it needs to be registered with the relevant government agency. In the US, this would be the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
One key difference between copyright and trademark is the subject they protect. Copyrights protect creative expressions and original works, while trademarks protect brand names and logos.
Copyrights and trademarks also differ in their duration! Copyright protection generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, while trademark protection can be renewed indefinitely as long as the mark is in use.
Copyrights and trademarks serve distinct purposes within the realm of intellectual property. Copyrights are concerned with the protection of creative content, allowing creators to control how their works are used and shared.
However, trademarks are focused on preserving the integrity of brands and ensuring consumers can identify and trust products or services associated with a particular mark.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a trademark stronger than a copyright?
Even though trademarks protect business assets like words, logos, and design elements, copyright laws are stronger and protect your business more than trademarks. So if you must choose between copyright vs trademark, go for copyright!
Is a logo a type of trademark?
Yes, a logo is a type of trademark. A logo can serve as a visual symbol that uniquely identifies and distinguishes a company or product in the marketplace.
When registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or similar authorities, a logo becomes a registered trademark, granting the owner exclusive rights to use it in connection with their goods or services and protecting it from unauthorized use by others.
What cannot be trademarked in the USA?
In the USA, you can’t register trademarks for misleading words, names, symbols or slogans. Federal trademark laws by USPTO also restrict you from trademarking descriptive or decorative features like “Red Tomato,” “Best Bear,” or such.
Is it better to have a trademark or copyright?
Copyright laws mainly protect your right to your original works such as literary, artistic, creative, musical, or dramatic works. On the other hand, trademarks protect the use of your company’s logo and elements of brand identity.
So if you’re looking to protect your brand from being copied, your best choice is a trademark. But if you’re trying to protect your creative designs and original works, copyrights are better.
Should I copyright or trademark a business name?
You should trademark a business name to protect its use in commerce, as trademarks safeguard brand identity and prevent others from using a similar name for similar goods or services. Copyrights don’t protect names but rather original creative content.
You can register a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to provide legal protection for your business name, ensuring exclusive rights to use it in your industry.
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