How do I know if I need trademark or copyright protection?
The choice between registering a trademark and a copyright is not always a clear one. Trademark and copyright registration are both means of protecting your intellectual property rights. There are, however, important differences between trademark and copyright protection.
Copyrights are a form of protection for the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other creative works.
Copyright does not cover intellectual property such as titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; or mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring. This type of intangible property is often more appropriately protected by a trademark. Think of memorable advertising slogans you have heard. Chances are these slogans are protected by a trademark of some sort, while they are unlikely to qualify for copyright protection.
A trademark protects a word, phrase, symbol or design (or a combination of these), that identifies and distinguishes the goods or services of one person or company from those of others.
Some things, such as more complex logos, may qualify for both trademark and copyright protection. This is because the amount of original authorship in a logo can vary greatly. Most highly recognizable logos are extremely simple objects, such as the Nike "swoosh," and would not qualify for copyright protection. However, a more ornate logo with a great deal of creative authorship might qualify for both trademark and copyright protection.
To protect the name of your company, your newly designed name, logo or a catchphrase, a trademark is probably what you need. To protect your latest painting, the next great American novel or even a brilliantly choreographed dance sequence, a copyright is probably the best route for you.
If you want to register a trademark or register a copyright, LegalZoom can help. We can help you search for similar trademarks, complete the application, and even file the paperwork for you. If you’re looking for legal advice we can help with that too – our legal plans offer affordable consultations with independent attorneys to advise you on your application.