Copyright v. Trademark - What's the Difference?

Trademarks and copyrights may be the most misused business terms. Trademarks and Copyrights are both forms of intellectual property that protect different asset types. It’s easy to see the confusion, but it is important to know the difference. Both applications cost money, and if you file the wrong application, you’re wasting precious money.

COPYRIGHT

A copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects original creative works fixed in a tangible medium. These creative works include web content, books, movies, songs, photos, artistic creations (graphic designs), and more. It is important to note that ideas are not coprightable. 

A copyright registration can vary in length. Generally, a copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. 

It is true that you do not have to register your work in order to have copyright protection. However, you need a registration in order to sue. If you think you’ll never sue someone, you also need a registration for most people to take you seriously when sending a cease and desist letter. 

A copyright application is $55 and can be filed at https://www.copyright.gov/registration/.

TRADEMARK

Trademarks are exclusively for branding purposes. Anything that identifies a brand can be trademarked: business name, logo, or slogan. Common or everyday phrases are not eligible for trademark protection. This is a common misconception, but it’s an important point to be aware of. Businesses have slipped through the cracks by having common phrases registered, but they will soon find out that their money has gone to waste. The trademark office is aware of trademarks slipping through the cracks, and the trademark office is beginning to crack down and cancel those marks.  

A trademark registration does not expire after a set number of years. A trademark registration exists as long as the mark is in use. 

As with copyrights, you automatically have trademark protection. But again, you will want a federal registration in order to have the maximum protection.

A trademark application is $225 and can be filed at https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/filing-online.

 

CONCLUSION

Although trademarks and copyrights are both a form of intellectual property, copyrights protect creative works and trademarks protect a company’s branding. Make sure you know what you’re wanting to file before wasting money on an application.

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