What’s the Difference between Trademarks and Copyrights?

Trademarks and copyrights are both terms that you’re probably familiar with. However, there are some differences between what they are and what they cover. Read Chisholm Law Firm’s blog to learn more about the differences between trademarks and copyrights.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a symbol or word that identifies products or services from a particular company, and they must be recognizable by their sign, design, or expression. The owner can be an individual, business, or other legal entity.

We typically think about Trademarks when referring to popular logos like McDonald’s, Nike, or Twitter. However, phrases can also be trademarked. KFC’s “It’s finger lickin’ good” and Dunkin’s “America runs on Dunkin’” are also considered trademarks.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office recognizes two forms of trademarks: standard character trademarks and special form trademarks. Standard character trademarks protect the words themselves, while special form trademarks protect the stylization and design.

What is a copyright?

A copyright is a piece of intellectual property that protects an original work of authorship as soon as it is in a tangible, fixed form. This type of protection gives the owner the exclusive right to copy and distribute their creative work. 

When referring to copyrights, we think of artistic or literary works, like movies, television shows, plays, or paintings. For example, Disney owns the exclusive rights to its films, and they can sue anyone who infringes on that right.

According to the United States Copyright Office, it’s important to note that there are several restrictions regarding copyrights. You cannot copyright a name, idea, fact, system, or method of doing things. They protect only that which exists in a tangible form.

What are the differences?

While there is a similarity in how trademarks and copyrights provide legal protection, they do have many differences. Trademarks protect a word, phrase, or design, while copyrights protect created works.

Not only are they different in what they protect, but they’re also different when it comes to ownership. While trademarks can be owned by an individual, business, or legal entity, copyright is owned by the author or creator of the original work.

The timing is also varied. To register a trademark, you must apply for recognition through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Copyrights are generated as soon as the original work is created and published.  

Which one should you get?

As a nonprofit organization, you will benefit more from a trademark than you would from a copyright. Trademarks protect your name, logo, and slogan from being used by any other organization and give you the right to profit off of those marks.

While a copyright can be beneficial, they are only necessary when creating an original piece of tangible work. You could, for example, copyright any original work on your website, including writings, photos, artwork, or other forms of authorship.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of a trademark include legal recognition of ownership, registration within the national database, and the right to bring a lawsuit against anyone found infringing on your ownership of the mark.

A copyright has similar benefits in that it gives the author exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, or display the work. It also prevents other people from copying or using the work without your permission.

Speak with Professionals

When registering for a trademark or copyright, it’s vital to speak to the experts. Filing for trademark registration can be complex, yet it is a necessary step in protecting your nonprofit from any infringement.

Chisholm Law Firm has helped thousands of people start and grow nonprofits that impact the world. If you want the best for your nonprofit, look no further than Chisholm Law Firm. Our clients have a 100% success rate for nonprofit and trademark filings*.

You can rest assured that your nonprofit is in the best hands and that we’ll get everything done right the first time. Call us today to schedule your free consultation.

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*Past results do not determine future outcomes.

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