When to Get a Trademark or Copyright

Securing the rights to intellectual property can be confusing because the United States offers various ways to protect work. For example, a patent gives a patent holder legal ownership of a intention or idea. This prevents anyone from selling, making or using the patented invention without permission from the patent holder.

A Trademark Protects Symbols from Unauthorized Use

A trademark is any phrase, word, design or symbol that distinguishes businesses from each other. It also may identify a company without using its name such as the swoosh sign is Nike’s trademark. A service mark is also considered a type of trademark. A business needs a trademark when they want to protect their symbol, phrase or service mark from unauthorized use. For example, being a trademark holder gives them the right to hire a trademark attorney minneapolis mn to sue for trademark infringement. Trademark infringement occurs when a business or person uses a similar trademark or a patented trademark without permission from the trademark holder. A similar trademark is a symbol or phrase that looks like another company’s patented trademark.

Copyright is for Content, not Symbol

A copyright is legal protection for an original work such as a painting, book or music. A trademark is not for a created work because it can’t provide the full protection give in a copyright. For example, a copyright prevents another person or company from reproducing or copying the created work without permission. This means it is against federal law to record a movie then sells the copied work for profit.

A copyright also controls how the created work is used. For instance, a copyright holder of a novel can allow a movie maker to make a film using the novel. The movie maker must pay the copyright holder for the right to use the novel. A trademark can’t provide that type of legal protection because once a trademark is patented, it can’t be used by two separate companies.

A copyright doesn’t protect an idea. A person who has an idea for a play can’t copyright it. They must turn that idea into an actual play before they can seek copyright protection. This means that if someone has the same idea and writes the play, they can obtain a copyright. The first one to obtain the copyright to a created work is the sole owner of the copyright. The same thing occurs with a trademark.

Choosing the Right Copyright or Trademark Protection

It’s often hard to tell for many new business owners which type of legal protection is needed such as copyright or trademark. If a business owner wants to protect a slogan, a name or logo, they’d need a trademark. This protects against anyone wanting to use that symbol for their business. However, if a business owner wants to protect created content, they’d most likely need a copyright. Movies, novels, music and paintings are examples of created works. To avoid confusion and make the process easier, it’s important to seek legal counsel.