Every business should protect their properties. There are a few options you can do to protect your properties – Copyright, Trademark, and Patent. Please note that this is based on my limited understanding of the topics. Please consult with a lawyer for consultation or legal advice.
According to the US Copyright Office, “Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.” Copyright covers “literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.” Any creator can copyright its work. You can copyright up to 10 arts, 20 pieces of music, and 750 photographs at a time. The fees may vary depending on what kind of registration is applicable to you. The process is pretty easy as registration is more accessible online. For more information, you may visit at copyright.gov.
Trademark and Patent
Trademarks and patents may be confusing between the two. In layman’s terms, patents protect any inventions, including methods, theories, design, and prototype. The patent recognizes the inventor – the owner of the invention. Fun fact, they have plant patents for “who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.” Trademark, on the other hand, protects the brand including a name, symbols, marks, device, and/or any combination. Trademarks must be intended to be sold as goods or services, which means if you have no intention of making it available commercially, the trademark may not be eligible or in good standing. Trademark has 45 classes. You must specify which classes you wish to register your trademark. Here’s why. There may be 2 corporations that shared the same name such as Pandora (music streaming) and Pandora (jeweler). Both can trademark their brand but not under the same class. Pandora (music streaming) is registered under 9, 16, 18, 21, 25, 28, 35, and 41 and Pandora (jeweler) is registered under class 14 and 35.
How a court usually recognizes an infringement of a trademark is when another party misleads or deceives customers into buying their goods or services by misusing a registered trademark brand name, mark, symbol, etc. If something is similar but not enough to bring to a court’s attention, the owner of a trademark may send a cease and desist letter – which is pretty much a slap on the wrist. Please note that just because you registered a trademark, it doesn’t offer a full blanket of protection as there are some conditions or situations where a name or description can be used as fair use. For example, I can write an article criticizing a brand as long it’s not “suggest affiliation, sponsorship, or endorsement” to the brand.
Registering a trademark is complicated, rigorous, and lengthy. I recommend consulting with a specialist to help you with the registration process. You may also use the database to search registered trademarks at this link. For more information on Patent and Trademark, please visit at uspto.gov.
A quick reference – A copyright protects mediums. A patent protects inventions. A trademark protects brands.