How to distinguish between a Copyright and a Trademark; what can be protected by each.
Recently I was asked to copyright someone’s book title. I told her it couldn’t be done. That if a book title was to be protected at all, it would likely be through trademark protection or some form of contract. “You’re wrong,” she insisted, “My friend copyrighted his book.” As I listened more closely to what she said, I began to realize she was confusing copyrighting her book with copyrighting the book’s title. I thought to myself, I wonder how many other people have made that very same mistake. How many people in some way have confused copyrights with trademarks?
While copyrights and trademarks are both part of the family called intellectual property – something you own, which you design, develop, conceive, or construct with your own creative mind or intellect – the similarity ends there.
A Copyright is a legal form of protection afforded to any original work of art or authorship that has been reduced to a tangible or physical form. And, your work is protected the moment you convert that original idea into something you can hear, see or touch. That’s what’s meant by tangible. Absolutely nothing else has to be done. (However, later in our process we’ll explore additional ways to protect your valuable copyrights.) For now all you need to know is for a copyright to be valid the work must be original and tangible.
We’ll look at trademarks more closely a little later in other articles, but for the sake of distinguishing a copyright from a trademark, here is the definition:
A trademark is a distinctive word, name, phrase, logo, design, symbol, sound, color, smell, or a combination of the above, which identifies the source of the goods and/or services. It simply tells the marketplace, including you the consumer, who owns what. It let’s you know who to purchase products and services from and who to complain to when there’s a problem. For example, the golden arches is a protectable trademark of the McDonald, Inc., the swoosh symbol is a protectable mark of Nike, Inc, the doink doink sound on the television show Law & Order is a protectable mark of the Law & Order franchise, and the color pink used in fiberglass insulation products is a protectable mark of the Owens Corning company.
(This is a special contribution from Francine Ward.)