Thursday, June 21, 2012

Copyright and Trademark differences and similarities

There seems to be a lot of confusion about copyright and trademark

While the protections are similar, they are 2 very different things

So we'll get started with definitions. From Webster's dictionary

Copyright: the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work)

Trademark: a device (as a word or image) pointing distinctly to the origin or ownership of merchandise to which it is applied and legally reserved to the exclusive use of the owner as maker or seller

So copyright protects words, images, and sounds (books and other printed matter, music, movies, photos, etc.).

While trademark protects brands (McDonalds, Hello Kitty, Disney, John Deer, etc.)

Another difference between the 2 is that when you take a photo, write words, etc. you are automatically copyrighted in the US and the other countries that recognize the same set of laws. You can pay to have your item copyrighted, but this fee is mostly for extra protection in case you ever have to go to court over it.

But a trademark only goes into effect when you pay the money to have your trademark registered with the USPTO (US patent and trademark office).

Both sets of laws allow you to license some rights.

With both sets of laws, the copyright and/or trademark holder must enforce them. If the holder doesn't enforce the laws themselves, they can lose their protection, even if they paid a fee.

Not everything can be copyrighted or trademarked. Clothing, for example, a finished item does not have copyright and/or trademark protection unless said finished item has a decorative element (artwork, logos, etc)

I always assume that words, images, etc are copyrighted unless it says specifically that it is in public domain,to be extra safe.

As for trademarks, if you are wondering if a particular term is trademarked, check here:

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