Trademarks and copyrights are two types of intellectual property that protect different types of creative works. A trademark protects brand names, logos, and slogans, while a copyright protects original works of authorship, such as books, movies, and songs.

What Is A Trademark?

A trademark is a type of intellectual property that consists of a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others. Trademarks are used by businesses to distinguish their goods and services from those of other entities. They can be comprised of words, phrases, symbols, logos, designs, images, or a combination of these elements.

Trademarks are typically used to protect brand names and logos, and they play a vital role in corporate identity. When a trademark is registered, the owner gains the legal right to use the mark to identify their goods or services, and they gain the legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods or services set forth in the registration.

Trademarks can be registered through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the U.S. The rights to a trademark can last indefinitely if the owner continues to use the mark to identify its goods or services. The term of a federal trademark is 10 years, with 10-year renewal terms.

However, if a company doesn’t actively use its trademark, it can lose its rights. This process is known as “abandonment.” In general, a trademark must be continuously used in order to maintain its protection.

Also, it’s important to note that trademarks are territorial. This means that the rights and protections a trademark provides only apply in the country where it’s registered. So, for multinational protection, you would need to register your trademark in each country where you intend to use it.

What Is A Copyright?

A copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to copy, distribute, adapt, display, and perform a creative work, usually for a limited time. The creative work may be in a literary, artistic, educational, or musical form. Copyright is intended to protect the original expression of an idea in the form of a creative work, but not the idea itself. 

A copyright is subject to limitations based on public interest considerations, such as the fair use doctrine in the United States. Some jurisdictions require “fixing” copyrighted works in a tangible form.

Copyright is automatically granted to the creator of an original work, regardless of whether it is registered with the government. However, registration with the United States Copyright Office provides several benefits, including the ability to sue for copyright infringement and to collect statutory damages.

Copyright protection extends to a wide range of creative works, including:

  • Literary works, such as books, articles, poems, and scripts
  • Musical works, such as songs and compositions
  • Dramatic works, such as plays and screenplays
  • Artistic works, such as paintings, sculptures, and photographs
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Computer programs
  • Architectural works

Copyright protection does not extend to:

  • Ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, discoveries, or facts
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans
  • Familiar symbols or designs, such as those used on flags, coats of arms, and seals
  • Works that are not fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as speeches, performances, and improvisations

What Are The Similarities Between Trademarks And Copyrights?

Both copyright and trademark laws are forms of intellectual property protection that are designed to protect against unauthorized use. Here are a few similarities:

  • Protection: Both provide the owner with a form of protection against unauthorized use, copying, or misrepresentation.
  • Exclusive rights: Both provide the holder with exclusive rights to use, reproduce, display, or distribute the protected work or symbol.
  • Enforcement: Both can be legally enforced and violations can result in penalties, including fines and potentially even imprisonment.
  • Transferability: Both copyrights and trademarks can be bought, sold, or licensed, providing an additional revenue stream for the owner.
  • International recognition: Both are recognized across many countries, thanks to international treaties and agreements, such as the Berne Convention for copyright and the Madrid Protocol for trademarks.
  • Legal remedies: In the case of infringement, both copyright and trademark owners can seek legal remedies including injunctions, damages, and profits from unauthorized use.

Remember, while they share these similarities, copyright and trademarks protect different types of intellectual property and are governed by different sets of laws and regulations.

What Are The Differences Between Trademarks And Copyrights?

While both trademarks and copyrights are forms of intellectual property protection, they serve different purposes and protect different types of assets. Here are some key differences:

  • Type of Work Protected: Copyright protects original works of authorship such as books, music, films, paintings, photographs, and software. Trademarks, on the other hand, protect brand identifiers such as names, logos, and slogans that distinguish goods and services in the marketplace.
  • Duration of Protection: Copyright protection generally lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. In contrast, trademark protection can last indefinitely, as long as the mark continues to be used in commerce and the owner defends it against infringement.
  • Registration: Copyright protection is automatic upon the creation and fixation of the work, while registration provides additional benefits. Trademark rights, however, are only fully protected under law when they are registered with the appropriate governmental agency, although there are some common law protections for unregistered trademarks.
  • Use of Symbols: Copyright uses the © symbol, while trademarks use the ™ symbol for an unregistered trademark and the ® symbol for a registered trademark.
  • Purpose of Protection: Copyright is designed to protect the expression of creative ideas and encourages the creation of art and culture. Trademarks are designed to protect consumers by preventing confusion in the marketplace, ensuring that a brand or company can be easily identified by its specific trademark.
  • Infringement Consequences: In copyright, the unauthorized use of a work in a way that violates the copyright holder’s exclusive rights is considered infringement, and the penalties can be severe, including heavy fines and possible jail time. Trademark infringement involves the unauthorized use of a trademark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services. Like copyright infringement, it can result in legal action, fines, and damage to reputation.
  • Ideas vs Expressions: Copyright does not protect ideas, facts, styles, or methods of operation, although it can protect the way these things are expressed. Trademarks, however, can protect symbols or devices that represent a brand or product, serving as an identifier of goods/services.

Remember that depending on the nature of your work or product, you might need to consider both copyright and trademark protections.

When Should You Register A Trademark?

You should consider registering a trademark when:

  • Establishing a Brand: You are establishing a brand and want to protect your brand name, logo, slogan, or other identifying symbols that distinguish your goods or services from others.
  • Planning for Expansion: You are planning to expand your business locally, nationally, or internationally. Registering your trademark can prevent other companies from using a similar mark that could cause confusion among your customers.
  • Preventing Misuse: You want to prevent others from misusing your brand or benefitting from your brand reputation. Registered trademarks provide a legal presumption of ownership, which can be important in infringement cases.
  • Adding Value: A registered trademark can add value to your business. It can be a valuable asset if you decide to sell your business or license your brand to third parties.
  • Online Presence: In the digital age, having a registered trademark can be especially important as it can help protect your brand identity online and prevent domain name issues.
  • Using Legal Symbols: After registering a trademark, you can use the ® symbol, which signifies that your trademark is officially registered and protected.

Remember, while common law does offer some protection to unregistered trademarks, these rights are limited compared to the benefits provided by registration. Registering a trademark often provides stronger protection and easier enforcement in case of disputes or infringement.

When Should You Register A Copyright?

Copyright protection is automatic upon the creation of an original work and its fixation in a tangible medium. However, registering your copyright with the relevant authority, such as the U.S. Copyright Office in the United States, provides additional benefits.

You should consider registering a copyright when:

  • Enforcing Rights: You want to be able to enforce your copyright in court. In many jurisdictions, including the United States, you must register your copyright before you can sue for copyright infringement.
  • Establishing Public Record: You want to establish a public record of your copyright claim, which can deter potential infringement and can be helpful if you ever need to prove your ownership.
  • Claiming Statutory Damages and Attorney’s Fees: If you register your copyright within three months of publication or before an infringement occurs, you may be eligible to receive statutory damages and attorney’s fees in a U.S. court in case of infringement. Without registration, you can only sue for actual damages, which can be harder to prove.
  • Using Copyright Notice: Registration allows you to use the copyright symbol ©, followed by the year of first publication and the owner’s name. This acts as a general deterrent to potential infringers by indicating that the work is protected.
  • Commercial Value: If you plan to license your work, sell rights to it, or otherwise commercially exploit it, having a registered copyright can provide reassurance to potential buyers or licensees about the validity of your ownership.
  • International Protection: While copyright is recognized internationally thanks to treaties like the Berne Convention, having a registered copyright in your home country can help if you need to enforce your rights abroad.

Remember, the process and benefits of copyright registration can vary by country, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a legal professional or the copyright authority in your country to understand the specific implications.

How To Protect Your Trademarks And Copyrights

Protecting your trademarks and copyrights involves a combination of legal processes and practical steps. Here are some ways to protect them:


  • Search and Research: Before you start using a trademark, conduct a thorough search to make sure it’s not already in use or registered by someone else. This can often involve databases like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).
  • Registration: Register your trademark with the appropriate governmental agency. In the U.S., this would be the USPTO. Registration provides stronger legal protections.
  • Use It: Use your trademark consistently in your business. The more you use your trademark in commerce, the stronger your rights become.
  • Monitor: Keep an eye on the market to ensure others aren’t using your trademark or a confusingly similar one. There are professional services that can help monitor this for you.
  • Enforce: If you find someone infringing on your trademark, take action. This might involve sending a cease and desist letter or, in more serious cases, filing a lawsuit.


  • Create Original Work: Only original works of authorship are eligible for copyright protection. Make sure your work is truly original.
  • Fixation: Ensure your work is in a fixed form, as copyright protection extends only to works that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression.
  • Registration: While copyright is automatic upon creation of a work, registering your copyright with the relevant governmental agency, such as the U.S. Copyright Office, provides additional legal benefits.
  • Notice: Display a copyright notice (©, the year of first publication, and the name of the copyright owner) on your work. While not necessary for protection, it can deter infringement and can be helpful in legal proceedings.
  • Monitor: Keep an eye out for unauthorized use of your work. If you find someone infringing your copyright, take action.
  • Enforce: You can enforce your rights by sending a cease and desist letter or filing a lawsuit if you find someone infringing your copyright.

For both trademarks and copyrights, it’s often wise to seek the advice of a legal professional, especially when dealing with complex issues or disputes. If you need legal assistance with trademarks, copyrights, or other aspects of business law, contacting an experienced Business attorney at Find The Lawyers.