What is the Difference Between Copyright and Trademark?

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Intellectual property is extremely valuable to a business.  It includes products, works, symbols, and designs that are owned by a company.  Companies seeking to protect their intellectual property should first file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or the United States Copyright Office.  How do you know whether you need to file an application with the USPTO or the United States Copyright Office?  First, you need to understand the difference between a copyright and a trademark.

Copyright Law

Copyright law covers original works including books, reports, movies, music, plays, and other audio and video works (podcasts, YouTube videos, etc.).  A work is automatically copyrighted at the time of creation.  The copyright exists whether or not a company or individual registers the copyright with the United States Copyright Office.  Nonetheless, you should always register your copyrighted works with the United States Copyright Office.  This will increase the legal protection for your work, particularly if you are interested in licensing the rights to your copyright.

The copyright registration process is fairly simple.  You, or your legal counsel, will file a form, pay a fee, and send a copy of the work to the United States Copyright Office.  Once filed, the business has the exclusive right to reproduce its copyrighted work.  What’s the big deal if you own the copyright anyway?  Well, this allows you to license the use of the copyright.  In fact, you see and enjoy the benefits of this all the time on the big screen!  J.K. Rowling licensed her copyright to the iconic series Harry Potter to Warner Brothers so that they could create movie adaptations of the books.

Trademark Law

McDonald’s Golden Arches? Nike’s “Just Do It”? NBC’s three tone chime? Geico’s talking gecko? You guessed it! All trademarks.  Trademarks include logos, sounds, slogans, company names, words, and colors or combination thereof, that may be tied to a specific company or product.  Anything that brands the company or a company’s product can be a trademark.

The registration process for trademarks is comparable to the process for copyrights.  You, or your legal counsel, will first need to make sure that the trademark is not already in use by another company.  Then, you, or your legal counsel, will file a form, pay a fee, and send the trademark to the USPTO.

Copyright and Trademark Infringement

Now that you have a better understanding of copyrights and trademarks, it is easy to see why it is extremely important for a company to protect their intellectual property rights.  And when your copyright or trademark is infringed upon, merely having the intellectual property rights is not enough.  Hutcherson Law assists clients with filing copyright and trademark applications and enforcing their copyrights and trademarks.  Contact Hutcherson Law today to learn how to best protect your intellectual property rights!