What are Trademarks, Copyrights, and Intellectual Property
Intellectual property has become a topic of discussion in the last several years. With social media and the internet playing a more significant role in our lives, it is essential to understand it. Intellectual property is a legal term that refers to the creations of the mind. It can be a piece of music, a formula, an invention, an advertising slogan, or a novel. The most common parts of intellectual property are trademarks and copyrights. You must secure the correct intellectual property types to protect your idea from being stolen. If not, you may lose ownership of your idea. Let’s discuss the difference between trademark and copyright.
A trademark protects phrases, symbols, designs, logos, and other product assets. Trademarks protect brands. A trademark means a customer recognizes a product or the source. You do not want to invest your time and money to find out later that you much change your brand because you are infringing on someone else’s. Wordmarks include names that make up a trademark and are associated with a product. Protect your wordmark first, then secure your trademark. A trademark:
- Identifies the source of your goods or services
- Provides legal protection for your brand
- Helps you guard against counterfeiting and fraud
A typical misconception of having a trademark is that you legally own a word or phrase and can prevent others from using it. You do not have the rights to the word or phrase in general, but you do have the rights to how that word or phrase is used with your goods or services. Creating a distinctive trademark is more effective and easier to protect.
You become a trademark owner as soon as you start using your trademark with your goods and services. Your rights are established by using your trademark and once registered by using the ®. Trademarks can be limited to certain geographical areas or the state, if you wish to have nationwide rights, you will need to register your trademark with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office).
A copyright protects artistic or literary works. For example, images and words on the packaging, the product itself, a label, and even a webpage can all be protected under copyright. These are considered literary and artistic works. Copyrights protect original works that are fixed in a tangible medium, meaning that the created work has been written down on paper, saved on an electronic device (hard drive or flash drive), or preserved in another tangible form. Copyrightable works may include movies, books, diaries, photos, videos, software, and articles. Software is protected under copyright due to the creativity used in the various pieces of code contained within. As the creator of the work, you have the exclusive rights to:
- Distribute or publish the work
- Make copies of the work
- Make derivatives of the work
- Perform the work
- Display the work
You can sell or license any of the rights above. If anyone attempts to do any of the above without your express permission, they infringe on the copyright. Copyright infringement has legal consequences whether the work is registered or not. This copyright lasts for a long time. Any work created after January 1, 1978, has protection for the duration of the creators’ life plus 70 years. Pseudonymous, anonymous, and works made for hire have a copyright duration of 95 years from publication plus 120 years from creation.
Registering your copyright is not mandatory but provides extended legal protection, such as statutory damages and attorney fees. It benefits you as the creative or the artist. Think of it as insurance against future challenges that risk severe damage to your business.
SecureMark Legal is a dynamic, woman-owned law firm that seeks to take the mystery out of brand protection and really take that aspect of protecting business brands “off your plate” so you can focus on what you do best, running your business. We strive to break everything down for you in easily understandable ways and to really become a partner in your success. We are based out of South Florida, but since trademark and copyright registrations are primarily Federal in nature, we are able to serve clients all across the United States regardless of where your business is based.