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How Do Copyrights and Trademarks Differ?

Updated: Mar 16, 2023


Copyrights and trademarks differ as they relate to different assets. They also protect businesses and creators in different ways and for various reasons.

Copyrights are about protecting creativity. Trademarks are about protecting your space in the marketplace.

Copyrights protect original, tangible, and creative work. Trademarks protect words, phrases, and logos that distinguish a company from its competitors. These include brand names, distinctive words, and other devices.

What is a copyright?


A copyright gives the owner of a creative work the right to keep others from unauthorized use. The creative work must meet the three criteria below:

  1. Original - the author must have created rather than copied it

  2. Tangible - recorded or written down

  3. Creative - human intellect must produce it

Copyright does not protect ideas or facts. It only covers the unique expression of ideas or facts. For example, copyright might preserve an author's book about a love between a human and an alien. But, the author cannot stop others from using the idea of an intergalactic love affair.

What is a trademark?

Trademarks protect words, phrases, and logos that distinguish a company from its competitors. A trademark can be more than a brand or a logo. It can include other distinguishing aspects of a brand, such as sounds, smells, or colors.

The following are some examples of content that you can trademark:

  • Business name

  • Business logo

  • T-shirt brand

  • Signature event title

  • Stage name

But the following are some examples of content that you may not protect with a trademark:

  • Ideas

  • Concepts

  • Methods

  • Systems

  • Inventions

There are many benefits of registered trademarks:

  • Protects against federal registration of not only identical marks but also similar marks

  • Protected throughout the entire USA and its territories and possessions

  • Grants the rights to use the ® symbol

  • Discourages others from using similar marks






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