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Trademarks vs. Copyrights: Which Best Suits Your Requirements?

May 11, 2022

Trademarks vs. Copyrights: Which Best Suits Your Requirements? 

Ideas and innovations shape the world, while innovators are the faces of society. Innovators strive to produce creative and novel ideas for the elevation of society while also protecting their intellectual properties (IP). 

Trademarks and copyrights are two critical tools that guard your IP. They ensure that no one poaches your original ideas. Even though trademarks and copyrights both refer to IPs, distinguishing their use is tricky. Here's a comprehensive understanding of trademark vs. copyright and where they're most useful. 

What Is a Trademark? 

Trademarks date back to ancient Greek times when skilled artisans engraved their distinct mark, a maker's mark, on their products. Today, you can distinguish between a high-quality label and a knockoff by the modern-day version of a maker’s mark, a trademark.

A registered trademark is the legal enforcement of such a mark and uniquely identifies a business. Anything can be a trademark, from words, phrases, images, graphical illustrations, and any combinations. 

The following symbols indicate a trademark claim: 

  • ™ (Trademark): An unregistered mark for laying claim to a symbol or logo 
  • ® (Registered Trademark): Indicates officially registered trademarks 
  • ℠ (Service Mark): An unregistered mark used in indicating a service rather than a product 

What Is a Copyright? 

Copyright provides automatic protection of your unique creations. It gives you the exclusive right to reproduce, sell, or publish your original work. Copyright protection extends to every authentic expression in a tangible form but not the idea itself. Although, the fair use doctrine in the U.S. permits limited use of the copyrighted material. 

You have to register a copyright if you wish to pursue a lawsuit for infringement in the U.S. Copyrights are also territorial in the sense that copyrights granted in the U.S. might not be valid worldwide. Even though the U.S. has established copyright relations with most nations, the items they cover vary greatly. 

What Does a Trademark Protect? 

A trademark prevents other people from copying your innovations. It also plays a significant role in establishing your brand and building a solid client base. 

A trademark guards your products or services against infringement. Trademarks allow consumers to quickly identify your brand and prevent them from buying copy products. 

Federal registration of a trademark also offers a few perks. It gives you exclusive rights to the nationwide use of your branding and safeguards your products or services from international copycat operations. Registration also allows you to use the prestigious ® symbol alongside your trademark. The mark helps sell goods and services online while also securing your future expansion plans. Registered trademarks also receive a significant amount as damages upon a successful infringement claim in a court. 

What Does a Copyright Protect? 

A copyright protects original works of authorship. This includes 

  • Plays, musicals, movies, shows, photos, videos, and music 
  • Books, articles, blogs, stories, and poetry 
  • Paintings, sculptures, architectures, cartoons, and any other artworks 
  • Games and other computer software 

Copyright laws protect your works from being plagiarized but don't cover every aspect of your work. It doesn't cover your work's basic plot or theme and historical events, facts, or any standard information mentioned. 

Successful registration of your creation with the U.S. Copyright Office also has benefits, such as 

  • Receiving the presumption of validity in the event of litigation 
  • Eligibility for damages against any post-registration infringement 
  • Stopping the distribution or display of any unauthorized copy of your work in the U.S 
  • Creating a public record of your work

Difference Between a Trademark and Copyright

Copyright 

  • Protects original works of authorship from unauthorized duplications.
  • Protection is available in most countries on successful registration, as long as an agreement exists between the nations.
  • Valid for 70 years after the creator's death.
  • Grants the rights to reproduction, distribution, display, derivative works, and public performance of the original work.

Trademark

  • Protects any word, phrase, and graphical illustration that uniquely identifies a brand.
  • Trademarks are generally country-limited and require individual application in each country.
  • Valid for as long as it’s being used in commerce.
  • Grants the absolute right over the use and display of the mark. It also prevents others from using similar marks that may confuse the consumers.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Trademark and Copyright 

Even though trademark and copyright protections can overlap, sometimes you may have to choose one over the other or even both. Copyright only protects artistic works and can't fully protect your business' name or logo against infringement. Trademarking prevents your company's logo design from being replicated by potential competitors. This ensures that your company is distinguishable while at the same time enabling protection to its intellectual properties. 

Meanwhile, when a logo isn't used to identify your company, and it's an original artwork, it should be copyright protected. A trademark only limits confusion among the consumers, while copyright defends against undesired copying. You can also opt for both of them for better protection of your intellectual properties. 

Turn to an Expert for Registration 

The process of trademark registration starts with searching for the mark's availability. United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) fees are non-refundable even if your application is rejected. Knowing the mark's availability beforehand avoids the needless wastage of time and money. Once you've successfully registered, it's also essential to continue monitoring for any infringements. 

Trademark Engine offers you support across every stage of this process. You can quickly get a comprehensive search report spanning both international and domestic databases. Our online registration process starts at only $99 + USPTO filing fees. We provide trademark monitoring service at just $175 / year. It includes continuous monitoring for any infringements or appearance of similar marks that may interest you. 

You can also get a copyright registration with Trademark Engine. All you have to do is fill out a simple questionnaire and get your copyright application filed for just $99 + federal filing fees. 

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