Trademark Vs. Copyright, What’s the Difference?


If you are a creator or business owner, your intellectual property is a valuable asset. Understand the difference between a trademark vs. copyright and how your intellectual property assets can be protected with each.

If you are a business owner, entrepreneur, inventor, artist, or another type of creator in Philadelphia, you may already understand intellectual property and its importance. Your intellectual property is an asset, just like any other tangible material or financial asset you own. And because these assets are integral to what you do or offer, you want to protect them from others’ nefarious or even innocent infringement.

For many creators or enterprises, your creative or brand identity is just as important as the product offered or service performed. Fortunately, that is legally protected by copyrights and trademarks, ensuring that others cannot use this identity as their own. 

What is a Copyright?

A copyright is a type of intellectual property protection that protects original works. It is afforded to any original work upon creation, as long as it is preserved in some tangible form. 

Original works that are eligible for copyright protection include:

●      Original literary works

●      Music, including lyrics

●      Dramatic work, including any of the accompanying music

●      Choreography and pantomime

●      Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works

●      Film and any audiovisual works

●      Sound recordings

●      Architectural works

The duration of a copyright will vary based on the country of origin and the type of work it is.

 In the United States, for instance, a copyright for work created by an individual will last for the lifetime of that creator, plus 70 years. For work created anonymously, for hire, or under a pseudonym, a copyright can last for 95 years from the time of publication or 120 years from the date of the actual creation, considering the shorter of the two. Upon expiration, a work then becomes part of the public domain. 

Although a copyright is automatic upon creation, formally registering copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office gives an official public record of ownership and can afford an added legal degree of protection under common law, giving the owner the right to damages if litigation should arise. 

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is another form of intellectual property protection. A trademark will protect specific phrases, words, symbols, and designs that facilitate product recognition.

When trademarks were first implemented, they were initially designed to protect the consumer so they could rely on a brand coming from a specific producer. It has since become a valuable protection for the producer itself. With a trademark, the owner can bring suit against another individual or company that uses the mark to further their products. 

A trademark can apply to anything that “brands” a business or product and identifies it to the public. It will protect things such as:

●      A brand name

●      A logo

●      Marketing slogans

●      Packaging

●      Colors 

While a copyright is automatic, a trademark is established through consistent use in business. 

To formally register a trademark, an application must be filed through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. While a business may still have legal rights without a formal trademark registration, a registered trademark gives the owner added protections under common law. These include:

●      Notice to the public regarding the ownership of the trademark

●      The exclusive right to use the trademark to distribute products or services

●      The right to bring action against another party for infringement

●      The ability to obtain a trademark in other countries

●      The ability to file with U.S. Customs to block knockoff goods from entering the country

Trademark Vs. Copyright –- Making Sure Your Intellectual Property is Protected 

Intellectual property rights have been a force throughout our history. Even our nation’s founders recognized their inherent importance. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution grants Congress the power to “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

Registered copyrights and trademarks can be crucial legal protections in our current world of intellectual property theft. At Paul & Paul, our talented trademark and copyright attorneys in Philadelphia have assisted clients throughout the country with their intellectual property protection. If you have trademark vs. copyright questions, call us at (215) 568-4900 or contact us through our online contact form. 

This website is designed to provide only general information. The information presented on this website is not formal legal advice. You should not rely on any general information from any source for making legal decisions. Each legal matter is unique and requires specific attention from a qualified and experienced attorney. Unless a representation agreement has been signed with Paul & Paul, we are not your legal representatives.




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