Copyright vs Trademark: What's The Difference?

Does Intellectual Property make your head spin?

Clients often ask me about the difference between copyrights and trademarks. It's a great question and an important distinction to be made in protecting your business and brand. 

Trademarks identify the source of goods and services. In fact, the stated purpose of trademark law is to prevent a likelihood of confusion among consumers.

When I travel, I love knowing that I can find a Bikram yoga studio in any city/town and expect the same, or very similar, experience to that of my local Bikram studio. Similarly, when I purchase a Nikon accessory for my camera, I feel assured as to the quality and integrity of the product. Consumer confidence! Of course, trademarks also protect businesses from brand dilution.

Trademarks include names of the business/product/service, logos, colors, sounds and even smells. Famous marks include the red sole of Louboutin shoe, McDonald's golden arches and the NBC three-note chime sound. The United States Patent and Trade Office issues trademark protection which may be indefinite, provided the owner of the mark properly renews registration every 10 years.

I like to explain copyright to my clients as the actual substance of the work that they create. This would include books, photographs, paintings, blogs and even choreographed dance. Copyright law protects work that is both published and unpublished. In fact, your original work is copyright protected from the very moment it was created. Copyright registration is, however, necessary to enforce your rights in a federal court. The United States Copyright Office issues copyright protection which lasts for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years. 


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