What is the difference?

We have customers keep asking us the same questions. “What is the difference between Registered Trademark, Service Mark and Copyright?”

So we have decided to post this article for those who are willing to learn more about it.

Trademark symbols protect your various product names, titles, logo design, brochure designs, custom web design and other graphic design elements that are used to identify your company as the source of a product. In this way, trademarks help your company to maintain a distinct identity in the marketplace.

Once you put a trademark on a product in the marketplace, it provides legal protection. However, they do not prevent other companies from producing the same products with a clearly different mark – you cannot trademark an idea but you can trademark the expression of an idea.

Although trademarks protect, they must also be protected by registering with the US Patent and Trademark Office. A Registered Trademark  costs anywhere from $325 and up, and often takes a year and even up to several years to process, since there is more research involved in issuing it. Once registered, you can change the ™ to ®.

Companies must constantly monitor their trademarks so that they don’t slip into generic use; if they do, they can lose them. For example, Kleenex must constantly remind the public that Kleenex is their product, and not the universal synonym for tissue.

The Service Mark protects a service as opposed to a physical product and affords the same protection as a Trademark.

A trademark must be renewed every ten years and trademark laws vary significantly from country to country.

A Copyright  protects original artistic, dramatic, literary, musical and intellectual work that is fixed in any tangible medium such as a book, song, computer program or the content of a website as a whole.

The work can be published or unpublished. As with Trademarks, you cannot copyright an idea only the unique expression of an idea.

A copyright entitles the holder to exclusive rights to:

– Reproduce the work
– Publically distribute copies
– Create derivative works
– Publically perform and/or display the work

These five rights kick in from the moment the work is written, illustrated, or constructed, even without registering. However, the safest thing to do is to officially register your work.

Copyrights are registered with the US Copyright Office and they are generally easier to register than trademarks. A copyright registration currently costs approximately $30 and takes approximately 4 to 5 months to process.

A copyright remains in effect for seventy years after the creator’s death and no renewal is necessary. Unlike a trademark, the holder is under no pressure to keep tabs on it constantly.

Copyright law is fairly consistent country to country.

Article inspired by a book titled What’s the Difference?