Trademarks and Copyrights: Everything You Need to Know

Any individual, organization, or company (“Entity”)should be proud of the products or services they create. These products or services are usually what sets the Entity apart from their competition and significantly contributes to the Entity’s profits and customer’s good will. However, unless steps are taken to secure and protect their trademarks and copyrights, they cannot fully protect these creations and hard-work. For your business to succeed, intellectual property rights are a must-have and just as importantly something you mustunderstand. This article provides you with a head-start to your understanding of trademarks and copyrights to aid you in making your creativity, hard-work, and business the best it can be.

Trademark? Copyright? What’s the difference?

First, let us differentiate trademarks from copyrights. Both can provide protection foryour Entity’s creative and intellectual work, but they protect different types of work and expressions of your creativity.

Trademarks focus on the brandingof an Entity’s products and services. In other words, if you have a business and you want to have exclusive rights to your name, brand identity, slogan, or logo, you need to apply for a trademark.

Meanwhile, copyrights focus on ideas and specifically the expression of those ideas. If you are an artist who writes music, stories, books, scripts, software codes, creates paintings or graphic depictions, such as comics, movies, or videos, ora host of other artistic or literary works, you can apply to for a copyright registration.

Because these two types of intellectual property are so different, two different federal government offices handle these applications. Trademarks applications are examined and granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Officethrough the Department of Commerce; while copyrights are examined and granted by the United States Copyright Officethrough the Library of Congress.

Why Should You Apply for One or the Other?

Companies are not required to register their works for trademark or copyright protection but doing so can help safeguard the fruit of your labor and can provide benefits and legal rights worth far more than the cost of applying for registration.

Branding is how businesses set themselves apart from other businesses offering similar products and services. As an entrepreneur, you probably have spent plenty of time, money and effort to develop your logo, slogan, or brand book, just so your customers can easily recognize your brand and know to associate the brand with you. To help prevent and stop others from profiting off of your hard work and branding, you should apply for a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

On the other hand, a copyright can help protect your intellectual property from being reproduced, distributed, and/or used without your permission. It does this by recognizing your legal ownership and exclusive rights to whatever materials you have developed and expressed. With a copyright registration, you also have the right to file a lawsuit against others who unlawfully use your copyrighted material.

What Happens When You Don't Have Legal Protection?

A trademark or copyright serves as your protection against infringement by others. Infringement is the act of unlawfully using the trademark or copyrighted material of another.Without one of these two forms of protection, you can expect any of the following scenarios to happen:

  • Someone else may claim or use your work and brand as theirs,leading to confusion in the marketplace and diversionof sales
  • This can lead to lost revenue and profits
  • It can cause harm to your business reputation, leading to additional damage to your business
  • It can also turn into a legal case, which is an additional expense and stress for you

What do all of these have in common? A loss of your time and money from not having proper legal protections in place.

What Happens When You Don't Have Legal Protection?

If someone else copies, claims, or misuses your brand or ideayou should immediately contact a competent legal professional to protect your rights.

Getting Started on Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Applying for a trademark or copyright is not mandatory, but it can more fully protect you and your business in many ways.Now, if you are wondering, "Should I hire a trademark/copyright lawyer?" You should know that an attorney's advice is vital toacquiring and protecting your intellectual property. They can help you acquire a suitable and legally enforceable trademark or copyright for your creation.

A competent lawyer can guide you through the process from application through lawsuit.

If you need a copyright or trademark lawyer, we at www.patent-lawyers.com can help. Stephens | Domnitz | Meineke PLLC is a law firm of highly experienced patent and trademark attorneys with a positive track record of success. We have lawyers qualified to work in matters regarding trademark/copyright law and offer legal assistance in the application for and enforcement of trademarks and copyrights. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.