Copyright or Trademark? Which one is the protection you need?

October 12, 2021

You launched your own business. Congrats! You have checked all the initial boxes to launch like your business plan, consultations with an attorney and an accountant, registration with the Secretary of State’s office, business checking account, etc. Congrats again! There has been chatter about your business, and it is growing. Fast forward several months, you have hired employees, and your business is turning a promising profit. You feel like your business is about to explode. Are you ready? What can you do to protect your business and brand before it really takes off?

Consider the intellectual property of your business. Your idea has become a real business and must be treated like one. You may not realize it, but your business likely has intellectual property assets that may need protection. Depending on what type of business you have this can vary. You may be an influencer or blog writer, a tech developer, a retail business, designer, photographer, etc. What you are in the business of doing will impact what intellectual property you have. For example, a tech company may have an original database that needs protection; a photography business has images that need protecting; while companies of all types should consider whether their logos, phrases, or designs used in marketing their brands need protection. Consulting an experienced business or intellectual property lawyer is the first step in identifying your needs and ensuring you make the right moves to protect your brand and business.

Copyright

Copyright protects an original work of authorship that exists in a tangible form (i.e., paper, film, canvas, digital format, etc.). Copyright exists as soon as the original work is fixed in a tangible form and belongs to the author who created the work. The copyright is good for the author’s lifetime plus an additional 70 years. A copyright owner can transfer all or parts of the owner’s rights. For maximum protections, a copyright should be registered with U.S. Copyright Office. Why? You cannot pursue litigation to enforce the rights of your copyright if you have not registered your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. If you have created something original on behalf of your business that is in a tangible form on paper, film, etc., and you are concerned about potential copycats, then copyright registration is likely the next step to protect this intellectual property. More information on the copyright registration process coming soon.

Trademark

You have likely invested time, energy, and money into creating your brand. Sometimes that brand is coined by a phrase. Sometimes that brand is a company’s or product’s name. Other times, brand recognition comes down to a distinct visual image or design like a logo. Your brand is intellectual property of your business. If your business is expected to boom or is already booming, you should pause and consider this: To your market, what defines your brand, and how can you protect it?  Trademark is key to protecting your brand. You can trademark a word, phrase, design, or any combination of these that will help protect your brand. Trademark protects the word, phrase, or design from being registered by someone else and helps to stop others from using a trademark that is similar to and could easily be confused with yours. A business may need multiple trademarks for full protection, depending on how your brand is marketed. This is the bottom line: Your brand is your business’s identity, presence, and reputation in the marketplace. Certainly, that is worthy of protection. It is imperative you take steps to protect your brand. Consult an experienced attorney to see if federal trademark registration may be the right step to protect your brand. More information about the trademark registration process coming soon.

Your business has intellectual property. The question now is whether it is worth protecting? The world of intellectual property law can seem daunting to a business owner, but it doesn’t have to be. There are skilled lawyers who can walk you through the options and costs for protecting your intellectual property, as well as the risks if you forego formal protections like copyright or trademark registration. Seeking a legal opinion and help is the first step to protecting your brand and business.

For more information on copyright and trademark protection, contact our team at info@gayjoneslaw.com.