One of the most important things a small business owner can do is protect his intellectual property. Trademark or copyright registration allows businesses to protect their intellectual property rights and obtain exclusive rights to its use.
Are trademarks and copyrights interchangeable? Is not. Each protection measure protects a different type of IP. Let’s take a look at the meaning of each term, the types of intellectual property it protects, and what to know before filing a trademark or copyright application.
What is a brand?
Every business has certain trademarks, such as its business name or its logo, that are associated with its brand.
Filing for federal trademark helps protect media unique to the business and its visibility to an audience. It provides the owner with exclusive rights to the trademark. Without an official trademark registration, your unique trademark could run the risk of plagiarism by competing businesses and other outside sources.
Are brands and DBA the same?
There is another term that is also sometimes confused with trademarks and is doing business in the form of a name (DBA).
A business as the name is official and public registration of a name according to which you are in business. Some states also refer to the DBA as a hypothetical or fictitious name.
However, the DBA is not the same as a label. DBA filing will not provide exclusive use of the business name. Filing for a DBA means the business name can only be verified at the state level. What if, for example, you are applying for a DBA in California and a business in Oregon that wants to use the same DBA? An Oregon business can apply for the same DBA as a California business as long as no other Oregon business is using it. This is completely different from a federally registered trademark exclusive to its owner.
While we are talking on the subject of DBA, what else can this application do for startups? Businesses applying for DBA can conduct a business or receive money in a name different from the legal name of the business owner. You can also use the DBA to open a business bank account and public marketing and advertising your small business.
What does a trademark protect?
Pretty much all the original media can get trademarked! Some of these include, but are not limited to, business names, phrases, taglines, logos, logos, designs, brand mascots and equipment. Even specific words, colors or scents may receive trademark registration.
How to apply for trademark protection?
If you are ready to trademark, you should first conduct a trademark search. You can do this with the help of a third party application service or by searching Trademark database at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Doing a search prior to signing up is important for a number of reasons. This allows business owners to see if the mark is already registered or pending registration. If it is registered, then you will need to identify a new trademark that is not already in use. However, if the trademark is available, registration is free. Fill out a trademark application and pay an application fee with your local Secretary of State to preserve trademarks for your business.
What is copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection of intellectual property rights. Copyrights help protect the original works of copyright. These include published and unpublished works considered the work of their respective authors.
Who is the author? Copyright identifies an author as the creator of this original work. Technically, authors have copyright from the moment they create this work. This makes all of these property rights getting the proper protection by filing a copyright application even more important.
What does copyright protect?
There is a long list of works that qualify for copyright. Some may include, but are not limited to, the following.
- Performing Arts.
- Visual arts.
- Motion picture.
- Digital content.
- Architectural works.
How do I apply for copyright protection?
Similar to trademarks, authors applying for copyright should first conduct a basic search.
You can do this through a third-party filing service or through the US Copyright Office. US Copyright Office has Public directory You can search through to determine if your copyright registration is available. Search by name, keyword, subscription number, document number, or command keyword to determine if your copyrighted work could receive a copyright application.
If the work is unregistered or pending registration, fill out the copyright application form and pay a small fee. Remember to submit a copy of the work you wish to apply for with your application.
What happens when your copyright has been approved for registration? You will have peace of mind knowing that copyright will literally exist for you throughout your life! Registered copyrights are still registered at the federal level with their creator throughout their lifetime and continue to exist for an additional 70 years after the creator’s death.
Now that you understand trademarks and copyrights and the role each trademark plays in your business, you can apply accordingly.