Trademark vs. Copyright: What’s the Difference?

Trademark vs. Copyright: What’s the Difference?

December 14, 2021
Walker Weitzel


Intellectual property law covers a variety of different legal concepts. Among these is the distinction between trademarks and copyrights. Although both are forms of intellectual property protection, they offer different levels of protection. The distinction is important to understand intellectual property law further and provide adequate legal protection for businesses, artists, writers, and photographers.

What Is a Trademark?

  • The brand identity is its most important asset, and trademarks are essential for businesses to protect their brands. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that distinguishes the source of a product. For example, a company brand is represented by a name, logo, or slogan.
  • A trademark serves as intellectual property protection that allows businesses to prevent others from using their brands without permission. Trademark protection is provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
  • Trademark registration is only limited to the region that you are registering for. Businesses opt for federal trademark registration in case of expansion to other states. A federally-registered trademark is generally considered more valuable because it provides broader protection.
  • Trademark search is part of the trademark registration process wherein you search if the trademark you are filing is available or not. It is crucial to conduct a thorough trademark search before finalizing the trademark for your business. A trademark attorney can do this for you.

How Is a Trademark Protected?


Your business name, logo, slogan, and even a product name can be trademarked. Trademark protection is provided by federal law, which prohibits confusingly similar trademarks. A business is using a trademark illegally if it’s too similar to an existing registered mark or if it’s being used in a way that would confuse customers.

Here are some of the ways how you can protect your trademark:

  1. Extensive Research – Do a comprehensive trademark search to ensure that your desired mark isn’t already in use. This step is essential to avoid costly legal battles down the road. Similarities are often found in a simple search.
  2. Trademark Registration – Trademark protection is made through trademark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO will refuse to register a trademark already used by another business. Trademark applications can be made with the help of a trademark lawyer.
  3. Prompt responses to possible infringements – It’s also essential to have a business name change contingency plan when choosing a business name. If your mark gets suspended, it will be harder for you to find another one.
  4. Trademark Monitoring – Your hard work does not stop when you obtain your trademark. You need to vigilantly monitor the use of your mark to make sure no one is infringing on your rights. This can be done through online search engines and by subscribing to a trademark watch service.

What Is a Copyright?


  • When you have creative work, you must protect it from illegal reproduction. This is done by registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office in the U.S.
  • A copyright is an exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, or sell original work. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to receive profits generated by the work. This exclusive right restricts others from making copies of the original work.
  • Copyright law protects original works in music, literature, drama, architecture, art, and computer software, among many others. Intellectual property protection is afforded to all original works, regardless of the form in which they are expressed.
  • Literary and artistic works tend to be copied and reproduced without the consent of the author or artist. Copyright registration is an effective way to notify the public of your exclusive right to copyrighted work.

How Is a Copyright Protected?

  • Copyright protections are important to authors, editors, designers, programmers, and other creators who want to prevent others from stealing their work. Copyright protection is automatic when a work is fixed in a tangible medium, written down, or recorded. Copyright law gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights to that work for a specific period.
  • Copyright Registration is an optional process, but you gain several advantages if you register your copyright with the United States Copyright Office. These advantages include filing a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court and collecting damages from those who violate your Copyright. Such protection is made legal through copyright registration.

Differences Between a Trademark and a Copyright

Copyrights and Trademarks are often confused since both involve intellectual property protections. However, it is essential to distinguish one from the other since these involve different subjects and different laws. Here are some of the relevant differences that everyone should be aware of:

  1. What is protected? Trademarks pertain to signs or symbols that distinguish the goods and services of one business from another. Copyright protects original works of authorship. Trademark law protects trademarks, while copyright law protects copyrights. It is important to note that a trademark may consist of words, recipes, slogans, distinctive packaging, or any combination thereof. In contrast, a copyrighted work consists of literature, movies, and melodies.
  2. What needs to be done before protection is given? To acquire a Trademark, you must apply for registration with the relevant country’s trademark office. No formalities are required to obtain copyright protection.
  3. When is protection given? Trademark rights start when your application has been filed or approved. As for Copyright, upon creating the work in a tangible form.
  4. Until when is the protection given? The duration for the protection of a Trademark is usually ten years. The duration for Copyright protection is the author’s entire lifetime plus 70 years.
  5. Who grants protection? The United States Patent and Trademark Office is granting trademark protection. The Copyright Office, an agency of the Library of Congress, protects copyrighted works.

Similarities Between a Trademark and a Copyright

Aside from the differences, a trademark and copyright share many similarities. Intellectual works are protected under both trademark and copyright laws. But to further understand why it’s best to obtain trademark and copyright, here are some of the similarities that a trademark and a copyright share:

  • Both protect intellectual property. A trademark and Copyright both protect the intellectual property of an individual. In other words, it protects their original works from being copied by others. This will prevent people from stealing work they have not put effort into creating.
  • Registration and protection. Once work is put under either trademark or copyright, it means that you have the right to take legal action against anyone who tries to copy or use your intellectual property. This also means that if someone tries to copy or use it without permission, they can be held liable for infringement of their rights.
  • Trademark and copyright are both applications of intellectual property laws. Both are Applications of Intellectual Property Laws. Intellectual property laws protect the creations of an individual so that they will be able to get credit for their work and prevent others from using it without permission.
  • Both involve rights created by law. Copyright and trademark are both creations of the law. This means that the law has created specific rights for individuals who have their work registered under copyright or trademark. Both are provided under U.S. law. In the United States, both copyright and trademark are protected by federal laws.

Which One Do You Need?


The need for a trademark or copyright will depend on what you are trying to protect. It is essential to reference the subjects of trademarks and copyrights to understand the differences.

Trademarks are used to protect symbols, names, designs, and phrases that identify the source of a good or service. For example, if you want to protect the name of your business, you could get a trademark for your business name.

Copyrights can cover literary, musical, dramatic, and other artistic works. For example, if you are an author of a book who wants to protect it from illegal duplication, you need copyright. On the other hand, you need copyright if you have a literary work such as a book, song, or play.

To fully know the type of intellectual property protection that you need, consult with a trademark attorney or copyright attorney. An intellectual property attorney can give you a full explanation of each protection and its difference.

Why Should You Use a Copyright or a Trademark?

The purpose of using copyright or trademark is to protect your rights. These rights are used to ensure that you retain your claim on the original work. No one should benefit from your hard work without your permission. Other reasons why you should use either copyright or trademark are the following:

  • To protect your work from being stolen or copied;
  • To create public awareness of your work;
  • To prevent others from using your creativity in a way that may be harmful to your reputation or business; and
  • To ensure that you are compensated for the use of your work.

The list is not exclusive since there are other benefits that you may derive from using copyright or trademark. Consult with a trademark or copyright lawyer to know more about the benefits of using either copyright or trademark.

Understanding the Copyright and Trademark Symbols

Symbols are often used to distinguish various forms of intellectual property. The letter C in a circle ©, the copyright symbol, identifies original works copyrighted by their authors. Trademarks are identified by the letter “T.M.” or the word “trademark” (™) and are used to distinguish brand names, slogans, and other commercial symbols from other works.

These symbols are important to understand because they can help you protect your work. If you see someone using copyrighted work without your permission, you can take legal action. The same is true for trademarks – using another company’s trademark without permission can result in a lawsuit.

Contact an Experienced Intellectual Property Lawyer When You Want to Register Your Trademark or Copyright


An experienced Intellectual Property Lawyer can provide you with the experience necessary for registering trademarks and copyrights. Working with a trademark or copyright is not as easy as it seems, and there are many things that one must learn to do correctly. The requirements and procedures for both trademarks and copyrights vary according to country. Failing to file for and protect your trademark or copyright adequately can have profound legal implications, including fines and even imprisonment.

Contact us at Alloy Patent Law now for a free consultation. Get hold of the legal advice from experienced trademark and copyright lawyers and ensure your intellectual property is fully protected. Call us at (206) 899-6980.

No items found.

    Call a Provisional Patent Application lawyer today  - (206) 899-6980

    Our experienced patent lawyers are standing by to provide the guidance you need. Contact Alloy Patent Law today at (206) 899-6980.