The difference between copyright and trademark Zachary Hiller Law Houston, TXAre you confused about the difference between copyright and trademark law? You know that both offer protection of intellectual property, but you are not sure how to differentiate between the two.  The answer may be more simple than you think. While both offer protection under the law, they are actually fairly dissimilar from each other.

What Is The Difference Between Copyright and Trademark?

A copyright protects works of authorship and art, tangible items such as a book, a film or a painting. It protects original works from infringement by outside parties, not by stopping said infringement but by giving the original author grounds to take legal action. By having a copyright, the author of a creative piece has control over how their creative works are used. For example, an artist can license prints or an author can sell their novel to a publisher. In short, it allows the creative to profit from their works as they see fit.

It should be noted, however, that a copyright does not protect a theme or an idea. It simply protects the content of the creative work. Anne Geddes, for example, is a famous photographer known for her whimsical photos of infants and animals. She undoubtedly carries the copyright on these pieces, which depict babies resting in flowers or dressed as fuzzy animals. This does not preclude other artists from taking pictures with babies in costumes or resting in flowers, since the idea cannot be copyrighted. It does offer Ms. Geddes, protection under the law should one of her pictures be used or duplicated in a way she has not expressly approved.

How Trademarks Differ

A trademark, in contrast, doesn’t protect an individual but a business by protecting the names, symbols, or terms that are used to identify said business. It helps protects the identity of the business and to prevent confusion among consumers in the marketplace. Trademarks can protect brand names, like Nike or logos like the Nike “Swoosh”. The owners of a federally registered trademark can sue to prevent the unauthorized use of their brand. Trademarks can also protect catch phrases, like Nike’s “Just Do It” and products like Mattel’s “Barbie”.

In short, a copyright protects an original, tangible work while a trademark protects a company’s identity in the marketplace. There is only one potential overlap between the two: a company’s logo, which can be both a tangible work of art and a device used to differential a product or service. As such, a logo can be both trademarked and copyrighted.

If you are confused about the difference between copyright and trademark, or how these protections can be applied to your particular needs, call Zachary Hiller Law today. We can clear away any confusion and put you on the path to protecting your intellectual property safely.

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