Copyright vs Trademark

Copyright vs Trademark – What’s the difference?

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Copyright vs Trademark

When you want to protect your Intellectual Property (IP), you will need to know your Copyright from your Trademark. Learning this information will ensure you have the correct legal cover and stop you from falling foul of anyone trying to infringe on your IP.

Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

I am by no means an expert in the field of IP; I’ve written this blog to give you an overview of the differences between Copyright and Trademark. However, if you need help with your intellectual property, please do seek out a professional in this field.

Let's find out what those those differences are.

Not a big reader? You can watch this video version.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is there to protect your original creative works. 

You can’t copyright an idea, no matter how original you think it is. It is there to stop people from using your work without your permission.

But you can copyright things like literary work, dramatic works, musical and artistic work, as long as they are in a tangible form.

And what do I mean by tangible form? Here are a few examples;

  • Books
  • Music, TV and Film recordings
  • Websites
  • Software
  • Photography
  • Paintings
  • Graphic design elements like business cards or brochures.

How does Copyright protect your work?

Here in the UK, there is no requirement to register your Copyright. - Source

Protection happens automatically as soon as you create your work. However, it may be different in your location, so double-check this process if you’re based elsewhere! Your government website will usually contain guidance on your local Copyright laws.

Having Copyright gives you the exclusive rights to perform, distribute, make copies of or make adaptations of your original creative work and generally last for the author’s lifetime plus 70 years. However, this does differ depending on the type of work.

It prevents others from;

  • Copying or making adaptations of your work
  • Sharing copies of your work
  • Distribution of your work (paid or otherwise)
  • Performing or playing your work in public
  • Putting it online

Once your work has been created and is under copyright protection, you then have permission to use the copyright symbol, ©, along with the year of the created work and the name of the copyright owner. 

The Copyright symbol highlights that this is your work and will help protect you against Copyright infringements. In addition, using it prevents people from claiming they didn’t realise your mark is protected.

What is a Trademark?

The first thing I want to say is that most people will know of the Trademark symbol - ™. 

Anyone can use this symbol alongside their brand name or logo. However, using the symbol shows that its user considers the attached mark to be a trademark but makes no claims regarding its registration status. 

Essentially what this means is that you are saying, “This is my intellectual property”, but it wouldn’t have much weight in a legal IP dispute with someone who has a Registered Trademark.

What is a Registered Trademark?

There are two types of registered marks which you use to protect the sale of products or services for a business.

The first is the Trademark, and it protects goods or products. The second is a Service Mark which you would use to cover services that you provide.

A Registered Trademark uses this symbol: ®

A Service Mark uses this symbol: ℠

Generally, people tend to use the one term, Trademark, to cover both a Trademark and a Service Mark.

It helps distinguish your goods or services and protects them under intellectual property rights, and this process gives you a legal registration that lasts ten years in the UK before you must have it renewed.

What can be Trademarked?

Examples of things covered by a registered mark include;

  • A company name or product name
  • A slogan or tagline
  • Fonts
  • Colour
  • Audible sounds, e.g. a jingle, sound effect or music
  • Logos or symbols
  • Shapes of products or patterns

All the elements above become distinctive assets with prolonged use, solidifying your brand image and creating a visual or audible hook to signify your brand, so it makes sense that you’d want to protect others from using them.

Once you have that registered mark, you have the exclusive rights to use that mark with your product or service. In addition, it allows you to stop other companies, businesses or organisations from promoting or selling a similar product or service.

What you can’t do is you can’t prevent someone from using a similar mark if they’re using it to promote or sell a different product or service.

Examples of Co-existing  Trademarks

Not all trademarked elements infringe on one another. Instead, trademarks ensure distinguishable characteristics that represent your brand are protected. For example, you could have two similar logos which relate to completely polar opposite businesses.

Let’s look at this example of two logos, one for Sun Microsystems and Columbia Sportswear.


Visually, these two logos are very similar, especially if they were both in black, for example, and you just had a glance at the logos. These similar logos can exist and be registered as marks because they’re two completely different industries. Sun Microsystems is in software and computing, and Columbia is in sportswear.

Let’s say Sun Microsystems were in the sportswear business as well; then we would have an issue because they would both have similar marks selling or trading similar products; this can happen.

What if someone tries to register a similar Trademark to mine?

What would happen here is that the company that had registered their mark first would have the option to prevent the second company from registering theirs.

In its simplest form, registered marks help consumers differentiate between brands and the products and services they sell. However, when you apply to register a new mark, the intellectual property office will look at existing marks.

If they feel that registering your mark may confuse the consumer when looking to buy a product or service from someone in the same industry as you, they will deny you that registration.

Once you have registered your mark, you can use the ® or ℠ symbol next to your logo or brand name.

Unlike Copyright, registered marks can last indefinitely but require renewal every ten years.

You cannot register a mark and put it on a shelf for use at a later date. For a registered mark to be viable, it must be in constant use.

Protect your IP with a Registered Trademark

So those are the main differences between Copyright and a registered mark. Hopefully, this clears up any confusion you may have had about the two terms, and you can move forward safe in the knowledge that you have the correct understanding for both and which might be most suitable for your business.

If you’ve made an effort to create a distinctive brand and upped your game to build brand recognition, then protecting your assets in this way is the next step, don’t let someone else benefit from your hard work, time and effort.

Ready to plunge into protecting your brand but need some guidance?

Book a Power Hour consultation call, and we can take a look at the assets you have, whether that’s your logo or your website, a document or a pattern and discuss how best to approach the process of protecting your intellectual property.

To do that, click the big red button below and let’s Rock Your Brand®!

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