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What is the difference between a trademark and a copyright?

A common question I am asked it "what is the difference between a trademark and a copyright?" While both offer intellectual property protection, they protect different types of assets:

[if !supportLists] * [endif]COPYRIGHT protects original works of authorship including "literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works." For example, a business can copyright its books, reports, audio or video materials.

[if !supportLists] * [endif]A TRADEMARK is a "word, name, phrase, symbol that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods." This means that a company can register a trademark for its business name, slogans, logos and other items that essentially brand the product or company.

While copyright is geared toward literary and artistic works, such as books and videos, a trademark protects items that help define a company brand, such as its logo. For example, Wheeler Publishing Company can trademark its name and logo, but would copyright books and videos that it created.

Copyrights and trademarks help provide protection from illegal use. Companies can sue others who use their intellectual property without permission. It is important to protect these assets because intellectual property can boost a company's net worth.


Registration of trademarks is not mandatory. A right can be established based in the use of the trademark. However, it is recommended that trademarks be registered because there are several advantages to registration. For example, if a trademark is registered, ownership is presumed. This is very important if there is a problem with someone else trying to use your trademark as their own.

It is a good idea to use a designation every time you use your mark. If your trademark has been registered, use the ® symbol after your mark. If your trademark has not been registered, you should use TM for goods to indicate that you have adopted this as a “common law” trademark.

It is important to not confuse registering your business with the state during formation with acquiring trademark rights.


Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. Registration of copyrights is also recommended for several reasons. If your copyright is registered, it is on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Copyrighted work that is registered may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation.

The duration of copyright protection depends on several factors. For works created by an individual, protection lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years. For works created anonymously, pseudonymously, and for hire, protection lasts 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.

If you need help with registration of a copyright or trademark, contact a licensed attorney to ensure that it is done properly and that your assets are protected. Wheeler Legal PLLC would be happy to assist you in your business’ needs. You can call us at 321-209-5995 or email us at

Disclaimer: The information contained above is provided for general informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship. This firm aims to provide quality information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this post. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

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