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Trademarks vs. Copyrights: Which One Is Right for You?

Intellectual Property is one of the most valuable assets that any business has. Most businesses know that, but they are unclear on what kind of Intellectual Property they actually have – trademarks, copyright, or patents. How can businesses protect their Intellectual Property, and when should they? How can they identify what kind of Intellectual Property they actually have? Let us first understand what trademarks and copyrights are.

Trademarks

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination that identifies your goods or services. It is what distinguishes your business from every other one in the market. A trademark could be anything from your company’s name, logo, and slogan to the shape, smell, or sound of your products. Anything that is deemed unique and distinguished enough to be totally yours can be a trademark.

Trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Trademarks do not have to be registered in order to be used. However, registering with the USPTO gives you enhanced legal protection. Work with an attorney to get through the complex prosecution process to improve your chances of obtaining a federal trademark registration.

What Does a Trademark Protect? 

A trademark prevents other people from copying your brand name, logo, or slogan used on goods or services. It also plays a significant role in establishing your brand and building a solid client base. 

A registered trademark gives you exclusive rights to the nationwide use of your branding and guards your brand or mark against infringement. Trademarks also allow consumers to quickly identify your brand.

Trademark registration allows you to use the prestigious ® symbol alongside your trademark. The mark helps sell goods and services online while also securing your future expansion plans. Registered trademarks also receive a significant amount as damages upon a successful infringement claim in a court. 

Copyright

Copyright protects original artistic works that are fixed in a tangible medium. Importantly, tangible does not mean physical – it means the work can be experienced in one set form by anyone who encounters it. Copyright protects everything from films, songs, commercials, and video games to phone apps, dance moves, architecture, and blog posts.

Copyright is registered with the United States Copyright Office. Similar to trademarks, a copyright does not have to be registered before releasing an artistic work. Registering your copyright gives you additional legal protection. You will retain the sole legal right to make reproductions of your work and profit from it – the “right” to make a “copy” of it, so to speak. Copyright lasts for seventy years past the lifetime of the original author of the work.

What Does a Copyright Protect? 

A copyright protects original works of authorship. This includes 

  • Plays, musicals, movies, shows, photos, videos, and music 
  • Books, articles, blogs, stories, and poetry 
  • Paintings, sculptures, architecture, cartoons, and any other artworks 
  • Games and other computer software 

Copyright laws protect your works from being plagiarized but don’t cover every aspect of your work. It doesn’t cover your work’s basic plot or theme and historical events, facts, or any standard information mentioned. 

Successful registration of your creation with the U.S. Copyright Office also has benefits, such as 

  • Receiving the presumption of validity in the event of litigation 
  • Eligibility for damages against any post-registration infringement 
  • Stopping the distribution or display of any unauthorized copy of your work in the U.S 
  • Creating a public record of your work

Difference Between a Trademark and Copyright

Copyright

  • Protects original works of authorship from unauthorized duplications.
  • Protection is available in most countries on successful registration, as long as an agreement exists between the nations.
  • Valid for 70 years after the creator’s death.
  • Grants the rights to reproduction, distribution, display, derivative works, and public performance of the original work.

Trademark

  • Protects any word, phrase, and graphical illustration that uniquely identifies a brand.
  • Trademarks are generally country-limited and require individual application in each country.
  • Valid for as long as it’s being used in commerce.
  • Grants the absolute right over the use and display of the mark. It also prevents others from using similar marks that may confuse consumers.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Trademark and Copyright 

Even though trademark and copyright protections can overlap, sometimes you may have to choose one over the other or even both. Copyright only protects artistic works and can’t fully protect your business’ name or logo against infringement. Trademarking prevents your company’s logo design from being replicated by potential competitors. This ensures that your company is distinguishable while at the same time enabling the protection of its intellectual properties. 

Meanwhile, when a logo isn’t used to identify your company, and it’s an original artwork, it should be copyright protected. A trademark only limits confusion among the consumers, while a copyright defends against undesired copying. You can also opt for both of them for better protection of your intellectual properties. 

Turn to Legal Expert for Registration 

The process of trademark registration starts with searching for the mark’s availability. United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) fees are non-refundable even if your application is rejected. Knowing the mark’s availability beforehand avoids the needless wastage of time and money. Once you’ve successfully registered, it’s also essential to continue monitoring for any infringements. 

OBS is a leading legal service provider catering to clients globally for years now. If you need skilled outsourced legal services at a reasonable price, then get in touch with us.

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