Clear Up the Confusion on Copyright and Trademark Protection.
There’s a ton of confusion around the question, “Can I copyright my logo?”. In order to answer this question appropriately, it’s important to first identify the scope of protection you may be seeking, by distinguishing between trademarks and copyrights. Each serve different purposes, are obtained differently, and provide different types and levels of protection. Let’s take a minute to break down the differences between copyright protection and trademark protection, so that we can help you identify the protection you need.
So, when someone asks, “Can I copyright my logo?” they may get different questions in return, depending on who they ask. If it’s their therapist, the reply may be, “How do you feel about copyrighting your logo?” If it’s a two-year-old, they’ll (of course) reply, “Why?” If you ask an IP attorney, they’ll simply flesh out the two-year-olds question and ask, “Why do you want to copyright your logo?”
Ignoring the fact that you may get cheaper legal advice from your toddler for a moment, it’s important to understand that question, in order to give you the answer that will protect the rights you want to protect. Let’s take a minute to break down the differences between copyright protection and trademark protection, so you can be sure that you’re getting the best answer.
What Does a Copyright Protect?
Copyrights can be obtained to protect an “original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression” from being directly copied by someone else. Copyrights protect things like pictures, songs, and software code from being copied by someone who you don’t want to be copying it. You can copyright things like:
• a book
• a webpage
• a song recorded on a cd or other medium
• a photograph
• a painting
Basically, you can copyright anything that is an original work, once it is recorded in a way so that you know what you are protecting. A Copyright protects an expression from being copied such as: words in a book, software code on a page, a painting on a canvas, a sculpture carved in stone.
Think of a song. Did you write that song? Do you want someone you don’t know singing your song? No? Then you want to obtain a registered copyright on your song so you can tell them to stop.
If your logo happens to be an original work of art that you have the rights to, like a photograph, drawing or painting, you could copyright it. But, all that does is keep people from copying it directly. If you’ve got an ornate logo that satisfies this criteria, by all means, seek copyright protection for your logo. If your logo doesn’t quite rise to this level, you may want to seek trademark protection as well.
What Does a Trademark Protect?
A trademark is typically a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of those, that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods or services in the market (in which case, you would call it a “service mark”, but let’s not get too complicated).
You use a trademark to protect the goodwill, or consumer recognition, that your customers have when they want to buy your goods, or use your services again. They already know about you and they want to buy from you or work with you. They look for your brand and they don’t want to be confused. Think Pepsi® or Disney® or the Coke® bottle or the Nike® √ (See, you know that’s not it!). Each of those names, logos and brand images have been used over and over again. Consumers know that when they see those trademarks they are doing business with a company they expect.
Typical items you might see with trademark protection include:
• business names
Since trademarks are used to identify a company or brand, it makes the most sense to file for trademark protection on the brand name, logo or image. By doing this, you can keep other people from using your logo, or one that is confusingly similar, to sell the same or similar things that you are. Trademarks protect anything that is perceived as confusingly similar in its sight, sound or meaning to your consumer. So, if you are investing in a brand image, you should seek a trademark registration to protect it.
If you’re ready to protect your logo, it’s a good idea to make sure you have an attorney to help guide you through the technical stuff. By starting your trademark application with AKeyMark, you can keep costs down and still receive an attorney driven trademark application.