Copyright v. Trademark

Copyright v. Trademark

Understanding the Difference

When it comes to intellectual property, the general public may sometimes refer to the terms “trademark” and “copyright” interchangeably. And because some things are protected by both trademark and copyright, it is easy for the waters to get a little muddied.


In order to un-muddy the waters, it would help to have an understanding of both terms, right?

So, what is a copyright?

A copyright is a person’s exclusive right to copy, publish, or sell his or her original work of authorship. These works include literary, musical, dramatic, artistic, or architectural work. A copyright covers the material expression of an idea, but not the idea itself.


Copyright protection is creator-focused and attaches automatically when these works are fixed in a tangible form. It protects the time, effort and creativity of the creator. However, registration is required if a business wants to sue another party for using his or her work without authorization. Copyright registration requires the filing of a form, paying a fee, and forwarding a copy of the work to the United States Copyright Office.

What is a trademark?

The USPTO states that a trademark protects “words, names, symbols, sounds or colors that distinguish goods and services from other businesses and to indicate the source of the goods.” This means that a company can acquire a trademark for its business name, slogans, logos and other items that essentially brand the product or company. Trademarks can be established through actual use in the marketplace (making them a common law trademark), though they can also be registered with the USPTO. Registering your mark reinforces your claim to the mark in cases of infringement.


Trademark law is consumer focused as its purpose is to prevent consumer confusion in the marketplace.


While both trademark law and copyright law offer intellectual property protection, they protect different things. Copyright is geared toward creative works, such as books and videos. A trademark protects items that help identify a company’s brand, such as its logo or slogan. For instance, Brownstone Publishing Agency can trademark its name and logo, but would copyright books that it creates.


Some things such as graphics and logos call under Copyright and Trademark protection if fixed in tangible form.


Don’t get caught up trying to apply for a copyright when you really need a trademark. Protect your brand the right way. If you need more help understanding which direction you should go in to protect the legacy of your business, contact us!

Author: Eloise M. Kaiser, J.D.

Eloise Kaiser joined New Millennia Legal Resources mid-year 2019 as the Senior Client Liaison. She is a New Orleans native and graduate of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. As a natural creative in her own right, she holds a special interest in business and intellectual property law.

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