Business has a wide variety of terms, rules, and regulations. We love to unravel some business laws and break down their meanings into simpler concepts. Today, we’ll delve into the issue of copyright vs trademark.

Almost every company creates a unique product or service and intends to create “brand awareness” among their audience.

Branding your business is closely related to different forms of intellectual property protection. As we all know, understanding laws and regulations is important for business owners to avoid any legal hassle.

This means you can avoid doing something illegal and give you the knowledge you need to take action when someone infringes on your intellectual property.

Let us go straight to the topic and clarify the copyright VS trademark confusion and understand the laws of intellectual property protection.

Copyright vs trademark featured image

Copyright – Legal protection that grants the creator of original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works the exclusive rights to publish, reproduce, distribute, perform, display or modify the work. Applies to books, movies, music, art, photographs, software code and other creative works.

Trademark – Protects any word, phrase, symbol, design or combination that identifies the source of one’s goods or services and distinguishes them from others. Applies to brand names, logos, slogans, package designs, and other trademarks associated with a product or company.

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Copyright protects authors of intellectual property, including:

  • Literary works,
  • Music
  • Artistic works,
  • Movies,
  • Songs,
  • Computer software,
  • And architecture.

This means that copyright is a law that protects intellectual property. A copyright is valid for a specific duration. For example, works which belong to individuals are protected as long as their author is alive and seventy years afterwards.

Copyright vs trademark what is covered by copyright
Copyright covers intellectual property and artistic works. Image credit: AmazonAWS

Copyright acts give the owner the exclusive right to publicly perform or display the work. In addition to other advantages, the owner can sell and distribute their work or transfer legal rights to another person.

If your business produces any works covered by copyright law, you should register your copyright. Even Ads or online marketing campaigns are subject to copyright.

It is worth mentioning that copyright does not protect ideas. Rather, it protects concrete pieces of work.

For example, J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter is copyrighted. However, that does not prevent anyone from writing another novel about a boy who steps into the world of magic.

A trademark protects a word, phrase, slogan, symbol, design, or combination.

A trademark is like an ID card for your business and, eventually, for your product and service. While consumers are researching your product online or in stores, a trademark distinguishes your products from similar ones on the shelf.

Undoubtedly, trademarks are crucial in creating brand awareness for any company. Branding has, of course, a strong effect on consumers’ behaviour and buying decisions.

Trademark law protects this kind of intellectual property.

If you register your business’s trademark, the law guarantees that no other business will use that trademark as their own across the country.

Registering your trademark is not mandatory. However, it is highly recommended, especially if your business provides services nationwide or globally.

copyright vs trademark  - Trademark process
In the UK, registering a trademark is an involved process. Image credit: Albright-IP

The flip side is that you cannot use a trademark that another business has already registered for itself.

For that reason, you should do trademark research before applying for a trademark registration to ensure that it has never been taken before. Unlike copyrights, trademarks do not expire after a set period.

For example, many large corporations have held the same trademarks for centuries.

Although both are laws for protecting intellectual property, they differ in the aspects they cover. Copyright concerns creative works such as written content, music, video production or filmmaking.

In other words, copyrights protect the owner’s right to create original and authentic works of art.

A trademark, on the other hand, is concerned with the identification of a business. Trademark law protects the right to the exclusive use of a specific logo for a specific company.

Any company may make use of both laws according to its needs. For example, if your company produces sports shoes, you can register your brand’s logo under the trademark law and register your commercials for copyrights.

Copyright vs trademark infographic
Copyrights and trademarks differ in the kinds of IP they cover. Image credit: Copyright Alliance
  • Copyright protects original expressions fixed in a tangible form; trademarks protect brand identifiers and goodwill.
  • Copyright arises automatically upon creation; trademarks must be registered.
  • Copyright duration is the lifetime of the creator + 70 years; trademarks can be renewed indefinitely as long as they are in use.
  • Copyright allows others to use works for “fair use”; trademarks cannot be used without permission/license.
  • Copyright infringement must demonstrate substantial similarity; trademark infringement is based on the likelihood of confusion.

Best practices for leveraging both:

  • Register copyrights and trademarks to strengthen protections.
  • Use copyright notices and trademark symbols properly to signal ownership.
  • Monitor the use of IP assets to catch infringements early. Send cease & desist letters.
  • Develop cohesive branding that ties trademarks to your copyrighted works and business identity.
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Trademark Law: Brands, Business Names, and Patents

So, if trademarks protect brands, where exactly is the line between these? After all, branding can take in various ideas, including your name, logo, and company’s personality and values.

What is the Difference Between a Brand and a Trademark?

A brand is a trademark in action. Although they sometimes overlap, they are not the same. A brand is defined as consumers’ broader image of your company.

This includes their relationship with your company, where they have seen it before, if they ever bought something from your business, your customer service, and the quality of your products.

It is the consumer’s experience with a business.

A trademark is only a part of that experience. Again, it is like an ID card to your business. Your ID is not your entire entity but allows people to recognize you.

Trademark VS Business Name

These are usually mistaken to be the same thing. A business name is merely the name under which you do business in a particular part of a country.

Registering a business name for your company does not give you the same benefits a trademark registration does. Using a business name as a trademark is possible as long as another company does not use it.

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What Is a Patent?

A Patent is an exclusive right given to an inventor which prevents anyone else from using or selling that invention for a certain period. USPTO defines it as “a limited duration property right relating to an invention.”

Patentable materials may include:

  • Machines,
  • Product designs,
  • Processes,
  • Or drugs.
Copyright vs trademark vs patent vs corporate secrets
Patents are like copyrights, except they cover inventions rather than artistic works. Image credit: OC Patent Lawyer

Why should you care about all of this? As a business owner, you might think you have bigger things to worry about than the finer points of intellectual property law.

The reality is that copyrights and trademarks can impede your ability to profit. Additionally, they can both also greatly boost your profitability.


A trademark is important to your business for two main reasons. First, a trademark is a powerful way of communication. It can deliver a short yet effective message about what your business stands for.

Not only does it make people recognise your business, but also it is a sign of trust and reliability. It also builds a sense of familiarity between your company and the consumer, which becomes a huge motive to choose your business over another.

Second, a trademark has value. Over time, trademarks gain value; just like real estate, trademarks can be bought, sold, or rented. They can even be used as a security interest to secure a loan.

Copyright acts are made for your protection. For many businesses, intellectual works are dearly valuable since their main income depends on them.

Therefore, understanding the benefits of copyright registrations can make them feel secure and stable, knowing they can sue whoever violates their copyrighted material.

Protecting your creative work isn’t limited by borders. But navigating the intricacies of international copyright and trademark can feel daunting. Here’s a breakdown to empower you on your global journey:

1. International Copyright:

  • Differences: While most countries adhere to the Berne Convention, granting automatic copyright protection without registration, variations exist. Registration procedures, protection lengths, and fair use doctrines differ.
  • Worldwide Protection: Registering your work with your national copyright office offers basic protection in Berne Convention countries. However, individual countries may require local registration for stronger enforcement.
  • Universal Copyright Convention (UCC): Offers protection in non-Berne member countries like Russia and China, but registration typically needs to be done within three months of publication.

Steps to International Protection:

  • Register Locally: Register your work in key target markets where infringement risk is high, even if you already registered domestically.
  • Consider International Treaties: Explore treaties like the Brussels Regulation in Europe or the Madrid Protocol for trademarks offering streamlined registration across multiple countries.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: Consult with intellectual property lawyers specializing in international protection due to complex legal nuances.

Resources for Creators:

2. International Trademark:

  • Differences: Trademark laws vary significantly, impacting registration requirements, infringement rules, and symbol recognition across countries.
  • Madrid Protocol: Simplifies registration in multiple countries (over 120) through one international application. However, local laws still apply for infringement enforcement.
  • Regional Trademark Systems: Consider regional systems like the European Union Trademark (EUTM) or African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) for protection within specific regions.

Steps to International Protection:

  • Conduct Comprehensive Trademark Searches: Research potential conflicts globally, considering not just registered marks but also common law rights and cultural sensitivities.
  • Prioritize Key Markets: Focus on registering your trademark in countries with high sales potential or significant brand identity concerns.
  • Maintain Accurate Records: Keep meticulous records of your registration certificates, filing dates, and renewal deadlines across different countries.

Resources for Creators:

Remember, intellectual property protection is complex and constantly evolving. Stay informed about changes in international laws and consider ongoing professional guidance to navigate the global landscape effectively. By taking proactive steps and leveraging available resources, you can confidently protect your creative work and empower your brand’s international success.

In the vast world of creativity, respecting the intellectual property rights of others is not just a legal obligation, but also an ethical responsibility. As creators, understanding these ethical considerations ensures your work thrives within a framework of respect and fairness.

1. Ethical Responsibilities:

  • Respect for Authorship: Acknowledge and credit the original creators of works you use, even if it’s inspiration or reference. Plagiarism and unattributed use are unethical.
  • Fair Use and Limitations: Be mindful of copyright limitations like fair use, which allows limited, transformative use for educational criticism, commentary, etc. Don’t exploit these exceptions.
  • Transparency and Consent: When collaborating or incorporating others’ work, be transparent about usage intent and seek informed consent before proceeding.
  • Respect for Existing Trademarks: Avoid using trademarks that could confuse consumers or dilute the established brand identity of others.

2. Avoiding Infringement:

  • Thorough Research: Before using any third-party content, conduct thorough research to identify potential copyright or trademark conflicts. Utilize available search tools and databases.
  • Understanding Fair Use: Clearly understand the boundaries of fair use and stick to transformative, non-commercial applications. If unsure, always seek permission.
  • Clear Attribution: When permitted, provide clear and prominent attribution to the original creators, including name, source, and copyright/trademark details.
  • Respecting Creative Commons Licenses: If using content under Creative Commons licenses, adhere to the specific terms and conditions associated with each license.

3. Consequences of Unethical Use:

  • Legal Ramifications: Copyright and trademark infringement can lead to lawsuits, financial penalties, and damage to your reputation. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.
  • Loss of Trust and Credibility: Unethical practices erode trust from collaborators, audience, and the creative community, hindering future opportunities.
  • Potential Harm to Others: Infringement can deprive creators of rightful income and recognition, impacting their livelihoods and creative potential.

Let us sum up the main points you need to remember:

  • A trademark is a logo or a design that identifies your brand.
  • A copyright protects the exclusiveness of original artistic or creative works to their author.
  • A patent protects the exclusiveness of inventions to their creators.
  • A trademark is only a part of a brand, although the two terms refer to the same thing in many contexts.
  • A business name is merely the entity’s name and is not equal to a trademark.

A: Yes, a name can be copyrighted as part of an original creative work and trademarked as a brand identifier.

A: No, trademarks and copyrights arise independently. A trademark does not confer copyright protections.

A: It is recommended to register both IP assets when eligible to strengthen your protections and enforcement rights.

A: Both carry civil and criminal penalties, but statutory copyright damages can be higher given predefined fine ranges per work.

Understanding the key differences between copyrights and trademarks is essential for fully protecting your brand identity, creative works, and intellectual property assets. While related, copyright and trademark protections serve different purposes.

Copyright safeguards original creations like art, literature, music, films and software, while trademarks distinguish the brand source of products and services.

For comprehensive IP protection, leverage registered copyrights for your works and registered trademarks for your brand identifiers and logos. Working closely with an IP lawyer can help build smart IP portfolios suited to business goals and enforce rights when needed.

SEE ALSO: Non-Copyrighted Images – How To Use Them

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