Copyright vs. Trademark

Copyright vs. Trademark

Clients often wonder what the difference is between copyright protection and trademark protection and which is right for their idea or business. While both are categorized as intellectual property, they apply to different things.

Copyright protection applies written works — the US Copyright Office explains it as “original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.” See https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html. Interestingly, these works are copyrighted as soon as the work is completed, which is why and how authors, for example, claim a copyright in their books. Although, their protection is only enhanced when they file their work with the US Copyright Office for copyright protection. That filing generates a certificate and listing with their office, to prove the date of creation, which is essential to protecting against infringement and avoiding risky and expensive litigation.

On the other hand, trademark protection applies to “marks.” What are marks? Marks are the identity of a brand or business — think logos, trade names, etc. This means, one could trademark their business name or fictitious name as well as the specific design of their name and/or logo. It’d useful for owners who want to remain unique and distinguished. No other business, if filed federally, in any other state could use a name or copy a logo, otherwise they’d be said to be infringing on your registration.

It would behoove creators and/or owners to at least evaluate their particular situation with experienced counsel and determine if either of these filings would be beneficial to protect their interests.