Do you run a business that is also a brand? Do you create a wide range of original materials and assets for your enterprise? If so, you have likely wondered about the differences between trademark and copyright law.
The truth is that intellectual property and brand identity are just as important as physical products and services. Protecting your brand is paramount, but there are critical differences between copyright and trademark that you should understand before you begin the process.
For instance, you need to know how to react and the legal steps to take if someone else starts selling products or services using your company name. Copyright and trademark are two of the most popular forms of intellectual property protection, but they have important distinctions.
Read on to learn more about the key differences between copyright and trademark law to ensure your business is properly protected.
What Is Copyright?
Copyright is a legal protection for original works of authorship that prevents others from copying, reproducing, or making derivative works without permission. Copyrightable materials include writings, music, artwork, and other creative expressions.
For example, copyright law grants you certain exclusive rights if you compose an album of songs or write a book and release it to the public. These include the right to reproduce and distribute copies, create derivatives, and publicly display or perform the work.
Copyright has four building blocks that are key to understanding the law. These include:
- Rights: Copyright protection means the copyright holder must retain exclusive rights to the work. Furthermore, only the rights holder can publish and transmit the copyrighted work over the internet.
- Originality: To warrant copyright protection, a work must be original and creative. However, it does not have to be inventive or unique in the world; only it is original from the perspective of its creator.
- Tangible Medium: A copyrighted work must be recorded or fixed in a tangible medium to be eligible for copyright protection. This means that the work must exist in some physical form, like artwork on paper, a book manuscript, or a digital file.
- Duration: The final building block of copyright is its duration. Copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years after their death. However, the duration might vary depending on the type of work.
What Is a Trademark?
Trademark is a form of legal protection for words, symbols, phrases, or designs used to identify and distinguish goods and services.
It is intended to protect consumers by preventing confusion while they shop. This prevents other companies from using similar words, logos, or slogans that might lead shoppers to believe that the goods or services come from a different source.
Trademark law also has four key building blocks that are important to understand:
- Distinguishability: To qualify for trademark protection, a phrase or logo must be used by a single company and be able to distinguish its products or services from competitors.
- Usage: A trademark must be used in the marketplace to qualify for legal protection. This is why many companies register a trademark before they launch a product or service.
- Validity: The trademark application process requires successful completion of several steps that may take time and money. These include filing the application, responding to requests from the USPTO, and paying the fees.
- Duration: The duration of a trademark is linked to continuous use in commerce. If you stop using your trademark, it might be canceled for non-use by another company or individual.
Key Differences Between Copyright and Trademark
Copyright protects creative works, while trademark protects branding. The two forms of intellectual property are very different and serve different purposes. Here are some key differences between the two:
- Scope: Copyright protection covers original works like books, music, artwork, and movies, whereas trademark laws protect words, symbols, or designs that identify goods and services.
- Duration: Copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. A trademark is protected as long as it is used in commerce and its registration is renewed.
- Infringement: Copyright infringement occurs when someone reproduces, displays, or distributes a copyrighted work without permission, whereas trademark infringement happens when another company or individual uses a trademark in connection with goods or services that are similar to those of the rights holder.
- Procedure: Copyright registration involves filing an application with the USPTO, whereas a trademark application requires successful completion of several steps, which can be costly and time-consuming.
Copyright and trademark are two essential forms of intellectual property protection that help protect businesses from imitators and competitors. Understanding these two concepts and the differences between them can help you better safeguard your business’s valuable assets.