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What are differences between copyright and trademarks?

The intellectual property of your business helps distinguish your company from your competitors and may even be the primary means your enterprise makes a profit. Copyrights and trademarks are among the most common IP forms that exist.

Distinguishing between copyrights and trademarks helps you to understand how to best protect them, by registering them with the government and later contesting their misuse by other parties.

Copyrights protect creative works

Copyrights protect original works of authorship for both individuals and companies. This encompasses a wide range of works, including:

  • Literature
  • Photographs
  • Audio and video
  • Artwork
  • Computer programs

Copyrights give you the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform and display your work. The copyright lasts for your lifetime plus an additional 70 years. While copyrighted works can attain automatic protection after you create them, registering them with the U.S. Copyright Office can reinforce your ownership.

Trademarks identify goods and services

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that distinguishes your goods and services from others in the marketplace. To name a few examples, registered trademarks include brand names, logos, shapes and sounds.

To gain legal protection, you must register a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Registration gives you exclusive nationwide rights to use your trademark for the goods or services it represents. Trademark protection can possibly last forever as long as you continue using the mark in commerce.

Copyrights and trademarks serve different purposes. Copyrights protect your original creations and content while trademarks protect your company name, brand or other business identifiers. To fully protect your IP, you should identify whether copyright or trademark protection is the more appropriate option for any creative work your business owns.