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Copyrights and Trademarks- What is the Difference?

You’ve heard of both trademark and copyrights, but do you know the difference between the two? Knowing whether you need a trademark registration, a copyright registration, or perhaps both are essential to protecting your business, your brand, and your creative works.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is any kind of name, phrase, design, logo, or slogan that represents a brand in commerce. Trademarks are used to brand, advertise, and sell goods or services. Many companies have multiple trademarks to protect their name, variations of logos, slogans, and other marketing materials. Trademarks create brand recognition among consumers and are extremely valuable in the growth of a company. Trademarks can either be “word marks” which are plain text words, or “design marks.” Read more about the different kinds of trademarks here.

What is a Copyright?

Alternatively, copyrights protect any work of authorship. This can include books, photographs, musical compositions, videos, and more. A copyright exists automatically when a work is created- it is inherent in the work. Having a copyright inherent in the creation of the work means that the author or owner has exclusive rights to use and distribute the creative work. However, obtaining a copyright registration gives the copyright owner additional legal power and recourse, namely the right to collect damages from anyone profiting off the copyrighted work. See our article on copyrights here.

Uses of Trademarks and Copyrights

Trademarks are used “in commerce.” When showing use of a trademark to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a trademark attorney must submit proof that the trademark is being used on products or services. Trademarks have to be used in interstate commerce.

By contrast, copyrights don’t need to be used in commerce. They simply come into existence when a work comes into existence. For example, if you take a photograph on your phone, you own the copyright to that photograph. But, what you can do to enforce that copyright depends on whether you take steps to obtain a copyright registration on the photograph.

Trademarks and copyrights are two different forms of intellectual property, both just as important as the other in its own right. Knowing the difference between the two is an important first step. If you need assistance with filing either a trademark or copyright application, please contact us for a free consultation.

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