It is easy to forget the difference between copyright and trademark. It is easy to confuse the two. However, this article will help you fully understand the difference between copyright and trademark the easy way.

What Is a Trademark?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a trademark as per the below.

Any word, phrase, symbol, design, color, sound, scent, or any combination thereof, adopted and used by a business to identify its goods or services and to distinguish them from those manufactured, provided, or sold by others.

The keyword there is distinguish. It’s what sets an aspect of your business apart from everything else. Let’s look at two good examples of trademarks:

  • Coca-Cola: What is the first thing you notice about Coca-Cola? It’s distinctive experience. The red and white flowing logo, trademarked in 1893. There is also the bottle design, which was trademarked in 1977.
  • McDonald’s: The fast-food giant has spent over 30 years battling to retain its rights to trademark not only its name, but the golden arches, nicknames, and fighting product knock-offs.

What Is a Copyright?

Copyright.gov defines a copyright as per the below.

A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S.Code) to the authors of original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.

In this case, the focus is on protection. The invention of copyright laws protected the artistic or intellectual creations of people, such as painters, and anything else that humans create. This is why copyright law has expanded to include modern creations, such as the Internet and digital music.

Who Needs Trademarks and Copyrights the Most?

Any company, or individual who plans to do commercial business, who has a product that has a unique name, flavor, appearance, or function needs to trademark that aspect of the product. It prevents anyone else from commercially benefiting from the original developer’s creation. Just think if Coca-Cola hadn’t trademarked their name. How many soda companies would call their soda Coca-Cola? Well-paid legal teams are in court litigating the complexities of trademark laws with other businesses who violate those laws.

However, a major difference between copyright and trademark is applicability. Any person, or conglomeration of persons, who create something unique. It doesn’t have to be commercially viable, just unique. Good examples would be: musicians who create songs, fashion designers who create waterproof jackets, computer programmers who create the next World of Warcraft™ type game, the person who designs the first anti-gravity bicycle, or even the first artificial brain.

The copyright is crucial to preserve historical accolades, potential profits, or both. How would you like to be a musician, who writes a song and the music to go with it? Nine months later, you hear it playing on the radio by someone you’ve never even heard of? Believe it. That kind of thing happens all the time. So to think just filling out a form, and paying a small fee, could’ve prevented it all, is gut-wrenching.

How Much Does It Cost to Copyright or Trademark Something?

Another key difference between copyright and trademark is price. According to the UPTO’s fee schedule, the total trademark prices range from hundreds of dollars, all the way into the thousands of dollars. It depends on the type of business you operate, industry protocols and your geographical location(s). Furthermore, it includes any opposing litigation from the surrounding communities and competing businesses.

According to Copyright.gov, registration fees range from a single application for $35.00 all the way to $600.00 for some group registrations. The fees alone explain how important it is to have copyright protection in place when needed.

3 Tips to Reduce the Cost of Trademark & Copyright Registration

1. Apply Online

We have mentioned prices in the above section. Now let’s see how a business can optimize them. So the current cost of filing a trademark application via paper submission is $600. The same application, when filed online is only $400. A $200 savings, when combined with gas, time off from work to go file, and inconvenience might be a $250 savings. Not bad; even by corporate standards.

2. Optimize the Fees as Much as Possible

Another important difference between copyright and trademark is apparent when you register copyrighted works. As per the US Copyright Office’s official pricing pamphlet, the filling fee can be $35 for a work made by one author. He/she is the claimant and it’s a personal and exclusive job. For other cases, the above fee is of $55. 

So, if you have to copyright several works, you might as well do them all at once for $55, instead of at $35 per piece.

business team

3. Minimize Goods and Services You Trademark

Now, when the USPTO states it is (assuming that you’re filing electronically) charging you $400 to register your trademarked goods or services. That only means for that class (or type) of goods or services. For instance, if you register a line of designer jeans for trademark, and designer luggage for trademark, then those are two distinct types or classes of trademarks. You will have to spend $800 to trademark both of them.

If there ever was a time for some critical decisions, selecting what is and isn’t worth trademarking, is that time. This is another huge difference between copyright and trademark.

Wrapping Up

Spotting the difference between copyright and a trademark is straightforward. It focuses on protecting intellectual property, but different types of assets. Copyright protects literature and art, like books and videos. While a trademark protects identifiers such as brands and logos.

What do you think about this comparison? Do you agree? We would love to know your thoughts on the difference between copyright and trademark. Give us a shout out on Twitter or Facebook and let us know how you feel.

Images: depositphotos.com.