When starting a new business, you’ll have such a hard time coming up with corporate markings and finding a new and unique angle to penetrate the market. This is why it’s so devastating to see someone else take credit and advantage of all your hard work. For this reason alone, in the online world, the issue of intellectual property is by far the most widely discussed one. Sadly, while both trademark infringement and copyright abuse are crimes, they’re incredibly hard to classify, penalize or regulate, due to their unique nature. Nonetheless, as a brand owner, you need to find a way to protect what’s yours and there are several things you need to know about your brand’s copyright.
The difference between copyright and trademark
The thing that confuses a lot of people is the difference between the copyright and trademark. While both of these concepts are there to protect your intellectual property, a trademark is there to protect your company’s name and logo, while copyright protects your other intellectual property. We’re talking about your content and other forms of corporate authorship of intellectual property. Needless to say, in order to protect your brand, you need them both.
Do you even need a copyright/trademark?
In some countries, you don’t actually have to go through a process in order to actively copyright and trademark your brand, in some fields. For instance, as soon as you register a company under an available name, you get the legal presumption of ownership. Keep in mind that this takes place nation-wide, which means that if you were to expand to another city or state within your country, you would be able to do so without worrying about your intellectual property. This at least goes for the company name or logo. When it comes to your authorship, there are similar government mechanisms, yet, taking that extra step to get copyright might be worth your while.
A problem may occur once you decide to expand on a foreign market, seeing as how the same name may be taken over there. This is why the Burger King franchise in Australia goes under the name of Hungry Jack’s. To avoid this, you might want to know your future expansion directions (international market) and plan how to secure your spot there, in time. For instance, you can register your company in the US (thus ensuring the copyright protection in this country) and find partners like Actuate IP in Australia (if this is the next place you intend to expand to).
The problem with the logo
The reason why the issue of trademark vs. copyright is such a problematic matter is due to the fact that a logo may fall under both of their jurisdictions. This means that you can get both trademark and copyright on the logo. So, which one do you go for? An original piece of artwork should always be protected by copyright, yet, a logo design gets trademarked all the time. Fortunately for you, there’s no law that prevents you from performing both of these actions at the same time. In other words, when in doubt, do both.
Just in order to make everything clear, so far, we’ve talked at length about both copyright and trademark, yet, there’s the third piece of the puzzle, as well. We’re, of course, talking about the patent protection. Still, not every invention classifies as a potential patent, so before we even start addressing this issue, it’s important that you learn what can be patentable. The subject matter needs to pass a certain novelty requirement, regardless if it’s a process, a machine or a manufactured item.
Enforcing your rights
At the end of the day, all of the above-listed doesn’t mean much if you aren’t ready and willing to enforce your rights. Sure, you may have copyrighted your logo and content but what happens if someone else is using these features without your knowledge or consent. Do you have a trademark/copyright watch in form of people or software that are on a regular lookout for infringements? Do you have a mechanism to deal with these issues or do you intend to figure out what to do when the moment arrives? All of these are things you need an answer to right away.
As we already stated and clarified several times over, both of these mechanisms are there to protect intellectual property in different forms and aspects, so you need to use them both. Before you can do so efficiently, you need to learn the difference and know which forms of IP go where. Second, you need to be ready to act if the infringement takes place and not let it all catch you by surprise. Due to the complexity of all this, it’s always for the best to have some professional assistance.