Understanding the Difference Between Copyrights and Trademarks

Intellectual property (IP) encompasses some of your business’ most valuable assets. From patents and trade secrets to copyrights and trademarks, there are several different categories that your IP can fall under, and it’s important that you are familiar with them all. This is because unless your IP is properly registered, you don’t get as many legal protections and it can be devastating to your brand’s integrity and business. So, if you run a business and aren’t sure whether you have the proper protections in place, it’s essential that you speak with an experienced business and IP law attorney right away. In the meantime, we’re here to talk about two of the most common types of IP: copyrights and trademarks.


Copyrights and trademarks protect two different things. Trademarks protect IP in the form of symbols, designs, words, slogans, or marks that a company uses to identify their business to the public. Even if you have never heard the formal definition of a trademark before, you’ve seen them in action – Apple’s partially eaten apple or the green Starbucks mermaid. The purpose of trademarks is to distinguish your company from its competitors and bring recognition to your product or service from the moment it’s seen or heard by a customer.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is charged with managing the federal trademark database. Once you have identified and decided upon your mark, an application must be prepared and the proper categories identified to register within.  The process is lengthy and cumbersome, but with the right attorneys, your company’s name, logo and/or tagline (think of Nike’s – Just do it.) can be properly protected.


Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed

Unlike a trademark, copyrights provide legal protection for original, creative works. The creative work must be fixed in a tangible form (e.g. written down or recorded) and can be either published or unpublished. However, even though the work doesn’t need to be published to be protected, a copyright cannot merely protect an idea or concept. Instead, they protect the actual story you wrote down or song that you recorded.

Copyright protection is provided the moment it is created and put into a tangible form.   However, for the utmost protection and for the greater likelihood of succeeding within a copyright infringement action, registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is highly recommended.  

Contact Ser & Associates today.

Properly protecting your company’s IP is extremely important. Not only does failing to do so put your company’s integrity and legal rights in danger, but it also confuses your clients and can make it hard to fix any damage once it’s already been done. At Ser & Associates, we regularly help our clients with their IP needs and can help you figure out the application process and get the job done right from the start. If you have any questions about protecting your company’s IP, contact us today.