Understanding the Key Differences Between Trademark and Copyright Law

Trademarks and copyrights can be confusing subjects, but they have the potential to be very valuable assets to you and your business. While the two are often confused, there are important differences between them.

Trademarks are designed to protect the identifier of a product, service, or its provider.  This can be the name of a company, the name of a product, or a logo. Originally, trademark law was designed as a method of consumer protection. It ensured that when a consumer saw a brand name or logo, that the product or service being offered was genuine and not presented by an imposter.  Trademark law still operates in this fashion and so, generally, the owner of a mark must use it in commerce in order to gain trademark rights to the mark.  However, there can be advantages to filing for federal registration of a trademark, including advance protection and nationwide notice.

Copyright law is designed to protect creative works. This is a broad category that includes everything from music and video to books and computer programs. Typically, copyright law protects the expression of a work and any related, or derivative, works, but it does not protect the general idea or concept behind the work. Copyright protection generally begins from the moment a work is created. However, the owner of the copyright interest in a work may also register the work with the United States Copyright Office, which provides the author with some significant benefits.

Trademarks and copyrights can be important tools for protecting your business’s interests and can also be valuable assets, especially if there is a fair amount of goodwill that has been attached to them. Give us a call if you’d like to discuss trademarks or copyright, and we’ll be happy to set you on the right path.