When a person is thinking about starting a business, he or she may want more information about copyrights and trademarks. Both can help protect the business and can prevent others from using the business’s brand and intellectual property without permission.
Intellectual property may include inventions, designs, symbols, images and other intangible assets. The type of asset will help the business owner determine whether to choose a copyright or trademark.
A copyright protects original works like books, videos, poetry, novels, art, songs, computer software and other related items. It is generated automatically when the work is created. However, the business owner should take precautions to ensure the work is not used without permission including properly marking it with a signature or watermark, using the copyright symbol and although it is not required, registering the work with the U.S. copyright office.
There are some works that cannot be copyrighted. These include ideas, principles, works that are considered common property like calendars and items in the public domain. Copyrights may be in place for 70 to 120 years, depending on the work, who created it and how it was created.
A trademark is used to protect words, phrases, symbols, logos, brand names and slogans. Trademarks can be in place indefinitely, as long as the business owner continues to use it. Officially registering the trademark can help protect it, just like registering a copyright.
It’s important to do a trademark search to ensure someone else isn’t already using the trademark. Once the trademark is registered, it will receive a trademark symbol.
An experienced attorney can help business owners determine which option is right for their business.