Copyright vs. Trademark: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to protecting your business practices, which do you need? Learn about the differences between copyright vs. trademark, to find out.

If you’re in the process of getting your business off the ground, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your intellectual property. Each year, an average of 12,000 intellectual property cases are filed. In other words, IP theft and violations are common. 

In order to defend your intellectual property in a court of law, you’re going to need to understand things like copyright protection and trademark protection. While you’ll hear these terms often in the business world, they’re more complicated than you might think.

Today, we’re going to talk about copyright vs trademark protections. When are they used and how can you secure them?

Read on to learn everything you need to know about protecting intellectual property with a copyright or trademark.

What Is Intellectual Property?

As a business owner, you come up with tons of ideas every day. Some of them may not come to fruition but others result in original, creative materials or inventions that become integral to your business. This can range from branding materials like slogans and logos to original work like research and software. 

Once your ideas become intangible assets, they require protection from theft or use without permission. This is where the concept of intellectual property comes into play. 

Everything we’ve described here falls under the category of intellectual property. To some degree, this property receives protection as soon as it’s created. However, you’re still going to need to understand protections and registration if you want to run a serious business. 

Copyright vs Trademark: The Basics

Two of the most common forms of intellectual property protection are copyright and trademark. To the budding entrepreneur, these terms may seem interchangeable. While they are similar in purpose, they do not overlap in what they protect. 

Copyright Protection

A copyright covers original works and comes into existence when that original work is created and preserved in some manner. Copyright protects original works such as:

  • books, poems, and other works of original writing
  • research
  • visual art
  • movies and videos
  • songs
  • audio recordings of original writing or thoughts
  • software coding
  • architecture 

You cannot copyright anything that is considered common property (e.g., calendars or clocks). You also can’t copyright an original creation that was not preserved (e.g., a live speech that was not recorded or a thought that was not written down). Finally, while you can copyright research, you can’t copyright discoveries. 

Copyrights don’t last forever and eventually, all copyrighted work becomes part of the Public Domain. The duration of your copyright will depend on who created the work vs. who is claiming the copyright. 

Trademark Protection

Trademark protection isn’t quite as wide-reaching as copyright protection. Trademarks are used to protect any original works that contribute directly to your business’s branding. This includes:

  • brand names
  • logos
  • slogans
  • business names
  • uniquely branded packaging

Trademark rights come from the use of branded materials. Like copyright protection, you technically have trademark protections once you’ve begun using your original branded materials. However, you can only truly count on a trademark when you’ve done the proper research and registered your trademark, which we’ll discuss below.

Unlike copyrights, trademarks do not expire. As long as you continue to use your trademarked materials and defend them from theft, you will maintain ownership of your trademarked work. 

Copyright Registration

You can establish that your work is copyrighted simply by adding the copyright symbol (©) to your work. You can also add your work to the Creative Commons, denoting when it’s free to use and when it requires permission.

Though it isn’t required, you can take the additional step of registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Upon completion, your copyright will then be added to a public record, strengthening your case of ownership should you need it in a court of law. 

Trademark Registration

Once again, you don’t need to register your trademark in order for it to be considered valid. If your work is trademarked but not registered in an official capacity, you can use the ™ symbol to establish ownership. Work that is legally trademarked is marked by the ® symbol, indicating that the trademark is registered with the government.

In order to register your trademark with the state or federal government, you will need to complete an extensive application process. During this time, you will need to prove that your branding materials do not infringe upon any other trademarked materials and make a case that your branding materials are original enough to warrant legal protection. The best way to get through this process is to consult an attorney with intellectual property experience.

What Is a Patent?

If you’re looking for a way to protect an original invention, you’re looking for a patent. Patents are another common form of intellectual property protection and the hardest to secure. In fact, about 80% of applicants receive at least one rejection before the application is ultimately approved, denied, or abandoned. 

Software companies, in particular, have a difficult time securing patents for new programming. This is in part because it’s extremely difficult to describe software and the contributions you’ve made to create it. Once again, you’re going to want to partner with an experienced attorney before you begin the process of applying for a patent. 

Work With Berkley Law & Technology Group 

If you’re starting or growing your business, it’s time to start protecting your intangible assets. Understanding the difference between copyright vs trademark protection is only scratching the surface. To get the best protection and representation in intellectual property disputes, you’re going to need an attorney in your corner.

Berkley Law & Technology Group is proud to serve the software companies and other businesses in Portland and surrounding areas. Contact us to find out more about how we can protect your business. 

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