Three’s a Crowd: The Triplets of Protecting Your Intellectual Property

The IP Triplets

If you read my last post, chances are you are now concerned (and maybe a bit scared) that you haven’t filed a trademark for your name, logo, or tag line yet. Good, my work here is done.

Just kidding.

Before we get into the process of filing a trademark, let’s clarify the three main areas of intellectual property – trademarks, copyrights, and patents. I am often asked to “patent a logo” or “copyright an idea” but those terms are incorrect.

After reading this post, you will see how everything you create falls into one of these three categories. That way, you can have a more informed conversation with your attorney once you are ready.

Trademarks

A trademark is form of intellectual property protection that applies to words, design marks (commonly known as logos), or symbols. The purpose of a trademark is to help a customer identify the source of a particular good or service. Trademarks are registered through the application process with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

You can recognize a trademark by the tiny "TM" or "R" symbol under a mark, usually located on the lower right. The use of "TM" means that the trademark has not yet been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The use of the "R" symbol indicates that the owner of the mark has a trademark registration. Some examples of famous trademarks are Nike, Chanel, UPS, and Coca-Cola.

Copyrights

A copyright is a form of intellectual property protection that applies to original works of authorship such as books, songs, movies, photographs, and computer software. Copyright owners have six exclusive rights in relation to their copyrighted work. These include the right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies of the work, perform the work publicly (as applicable), display the work publicly (as applicable), and publicly perform the work by means of digital audio transmission (as applicable). Copyrights are registered through the application process with the United States Copyright Office.

You can recognize a copyright by the tiny "C" symbol located somewhere on the work of authorship. Copyright protection begins the moment the work is "fixed in a tangible medium," which means it was written, recorded, videotaped, etc.

Copyright registration with the United States Copyright Office offers additional protections beyond the rights the author has by simply creating the work.

Patents

A patent is a form of intellectual property protection that applies to inventions. Ownership of a patent registration provides the inventor the right to exclude anyone else from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention.

The inventor also has the right to exclude others from importing the invention into the United States for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted. Patents are registered through the application process with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Photo by Jose Assenco on FreeImages.com.

Sonia Lakhany is an intellectual property attorney at Lakhany Law, PC. She specializes in trademark and copyright law, teaches and is a frequent speaker and blogger. Sonia is also active on several boards and committees in the Atlanta legal community.

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