As a business owner, you know how critical it is to build up your brand’s reputation and market recognition. You work hard to cultivate an image that will appeal to your customers. So what happens if someone starts selling products or services under your brand name or logo? What if a competitor copies your product designs or marketing materials?
Trademarks and copyrights work to legally stop these nightmare scenarios from happening by protecting your intellectual property rights in different ways. Your intellectual property or brand could be your most valuable asset. We’ve already discussed how important trademarks are to businesses operating on Amazon and beyond. If you don’t take steps to protect your IP, your hard-built business faces danger from copycats looking to cheat their way up.
Depending on the type of business you have, you may need a trademark, copyright, or both to protect your most important IP assets. But the laws around IP protection are not always straightforward. That’s where a knowledgeable business trademark and copyright lawyer comes in to help simplify and streamline the process.
By working with an experienced attorney, you can avoid losing hundreds of dollars and months of time to an incorrect trademark application or copyright registration. Plus, you get to rest assured that you’re taking the right steps to secure the future of your business.
When to Use a Trademark vs. Copyright
The type of IP protection you need depends on the type of asset you wish to cover.
A trademark is a representation of your brand that you use on the market. That could be a brand name, logo, product name, company slogan, or even a unique sound or color scheme.
A copyright is a form of legal ownership over unique works that you have created. That covers writings, photos, visual art, and even software code. Copyright protection is actually spelled out in the “Copyright Clause” of the U.S. Constitution.
How Are Trademarks and Copyrights Different?
- Trademarks and copyrights are so different that they’re handled by separate government agencies. The U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) manages all copyright registrations while the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) handles trademarks.
- Copyright protection extends to exact duplicates or close replicas, while trademarks cover any mark similar enough to be confused with yours.
How Are Trademarks and Copyrights Similar?
- The trademark or copyrighted work you want to protect must be original.
- Both copyrights and trademarks give you exclusive rights over the assets they cover, with the ability to transfer or sell those rights.
- You automatically get copyright ownership rights over your work as soon as you create a unique and original piece of expression. Similarly, you also get some trademark protection as soon as you start actively using a brand name or logo in commerce.
- However, if you end up in a dispute over intellectual property, you have a better chance of enforcing your copyright or trademark rights with a registration. That means you have a much better chance of winning a dispute with a registration than without. This applies to both copyrights and trademarks.
While some assets are easy to categorize into trademark and copyright categories (for example, a brand logo versus a page of original code), short words or phrases could fall under either. Usually, short words and phrases would be covered as trademarks. But if a phrase is unique and creative enough, it could be covered under copyright, too.
Is It Better to Copyright or Trademark a Business Name?
When it comes to the name, logo, slogan, font, colors, or any other identifying details of your business or products, you want to register a trademark for each one as soon as possible to protect your right to exclusive use of that identity.
Take Starbucks, for example. They have a separate trademark registration for the name “Starbucks,” the visual design of the siren logo, and the names of their different products. So far the company holds a total of over 200 trademark filings. Starbucks also claims its logo’s specific shade of emerald green as a “feature” of its trademark.
Should You Register Your Logo as a Copyright or Trademark?
A logo could actually be covered under both copyright and trademark rights. Copyrights cover “works of art fixed in a tangible form.” The actual drawing or design of your logo would be copyrighted and you could register the logo with the USCO.
Even if your logo is an original work of visual art, it still primarily functions as a “brand element.” That’s where it would come under trademark registration.
Is It Worth It to Trademark a Logo or Business Name?
Absolutely. Registering your trademark with the USPTO allows you to:
- Establish ownership over your brand name, logo, and other identifying details
- Create a legal presumption of ownership that anyone who challenges your exclusive use would have to overcome to win in a dispute
- Assert your ownership rights in a court of law to stop copycat infringement
If you don’t register your trademark or if you register it incorrectly, you may lose your rights over your branding – especially if someone else registers your mark before you do.
Copyright and Trademark Registration for Your Business
Yes, you can register a trademark or copyright by yourself. But you should ask yourself whether it’s in your best interest to have a professional handle your registration instead.
Even if the copyright or trademark application may look straightforward, the devil is in the details. Once you’ve submitted your registration application and paid the fee, it’s hard to make amendments or corrections. If you file an incomplete or incorrect application, you’ll have to start all over again – that means paying another application fee, too.
You could waste hundreds of dollars or months of valuable time registering your own trademark or copyright when you could have gotten it right the first time around with someone who knows the ins and outs of the process. That’s where a business trademark lawyer comes in.
Call the Holmes Business Law Firm now at 215-482-0285 to protect the intellectual property rights of your business.