The Difference Between a Copyright and a Trademark
Copyrights and trademarks are two forms of intellectual property rights. People often confuse the two, however significant differences exist that distinguish one from the other. Let’s take a look at these differences to help you better understand which, if either, is right for your invention design:
What is a Copyright?
A copyright refers specifically to works of authorship, such as songs, books, dramatic or musical plays, software, and photographs, and provides the creator with exclusive rights to the material. Whatever the material, tangible expression is required to get the work copyrighted.
To obtain a copyright, you must register with the United States Copyright Office. This is something you can do on your own or with the help of an intellectual property lawyer. If you decide to hire an attorney, you will likely be asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding your new invention. This provides the lawyer with a thorough understanding of your work.
Once all necessary information is collected, either by you or your attorney, you will file a copyright application with the copyright office. It generally takes six to nine months to receive your Certificate of Registration in the mail, however the copyright is effective immediately following acceptance.
After you receive your copyright, it is within your legal rights to reproduce, distribute, display and perform the work however you see fit. You may also create derivative works, or works based on your original creation. If a person or business unlawfully copies your work, you have the right to take legal action against the person/company in federal court.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is defined as an “identifying mark that distinguishes particular goods and services.” It is a brand name. Considered necessary assets when forming a business, examples of trademarks include words, logos, symbols, phrases, names or a combination of these. And while a trademark is different from a copyright, the application process is similar. If working with an attorney, who will help manage your idea and the application process. You will again need to fill out a questionnaire, and the lawyer will perform a trademark search before finalizing the application.
The next step is filing your application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. How long it will take for your trademark to register depends on a number of factors, such as an application based on use in commerce or intent to use. The process can take up to several years.
Acquiring a trademark demonstrates public notice of ownership. It also establishes your legal rights and makes legal action possible should a person or company violate these rights.
(This is a guest post by Kevin Skaggs and Idea Design Studio)