Do you know the difference between copyright and trademarks?
Published on 01.31.13
If not, why not? You could save yourself a shed load of hassle down the line if you do.
If you’re an artist, web designer, writer, or blogger (or pretty much anyone else working in the creative field), you’re likely to be fully aware of the benefits of copyright. Generally it protects what is termed as an “original work of authorship” – roughly translated as including books, poems, songs, web pages, and other original works.
Copyright protection is considered to be automatic in that the author creates the copyright in the act of creating the work. As such, copyright does not have to be registered, although in order to fully benefit from copyright protection, it is necessary to assert ownership of a particular work. At a very basic level, this is achieved by marking the work with the © symbol, the date from which the copyright protection is claimed, and the name of the claimant. Multiple copyrights can be managed easily with the help of a free copyright management app. With a few exceptions, copyright lasts until 70 years after the death of the claimant.
The distinction between copyright and a trademark is not always immediately obvious; both are valid methods of protecting forms of intellectual copyright. The difference really lies in what is being protected, with trademarks more suitable when asserting right of ownership over things like brand names. There is no legal requirement to apply for a trademark, since the rights and protection associated with it are technically gained in the simple act of using the mark. The advantages of official registration include legal presumption of ownership, an exclusive right to use the trademarked name across the U.S., as well as offering a certain level of overseas rights. As in the case of copyrights, registering a trademark can be accomplished with the help of online legal services, although unlike copyrights these are not free. Compared to the potential cost of a later breach of trademark, the costs are fairly insignificant. Registrants can expect to pay in the region of $100 to $400 depending on the service required. It is up to the owner to renew a trademark. This can be completed up to six months before the tenth anniversary of the initial filing date (and on every tenth anniversary following).
One problem to watch out for is trademarks becoming generic. Some of the better known examples of this may be identified as Frisbee, Hoover, and Hula Hoop; all of which started life as a particular brand name, but have since become common vernacular. Choosing a strong trademark can alleviate the possibility of a trademark being used generically, with “made-up” names often easier to protect.
Whether you need copyright or trademark protection it pays to know the difference and do something about it either way. Otherwise you could find yourself facing difficulties in trying to prove something important is actually owned by you.
Click here to find out more about Trademarks and how they differ from copyright.