by Tamara Garrison Thomas
In my business consulting, I have found that a lot of people do not know the difference between copyright and trademark. They do not know how to copyright a logo, website, blog or business name. Or in using the actual term, TRADEMARK their business. I used 'copyright' in the title because most people confuse the two. However, as I researched this subject I found out some interesting things...
Copyright is actually not the same as a trademark. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, a copyright provides protection for original works in the realms of music, poetry, movies, literature, etc. In fact, copyright exists as soon as the publication exists. It is just advised to register your publication with the U.S. Copyright Office for legal purposes. Some people also like to publish the copyright facts on their publications and make sure there is a public record. Registration fees vary from $35 to $80. It cost more money to renew, get copies, or search copyright records. Believe it or not, people steal ideas so you want to make sure you are protected. And for a mere $35 at least, I'd say it's a good idea to make sure your writings are safe, LEGALLY.
Now to the good stuff. A trademark is what is used to protect patents, trademarks, and ideas. This is handled in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). So, a business name, logo, or even business idea would fall under the trademark category. It is often confused with copyright but now you know the difference. The reason you would want to register for a trademark is to get legal use of a service mark (™, SM ,®) for your word, phrase, symbol, or design.
The benefits of getting the service mark is to protect your name. To keep people from stealing your ideas. Just like with copyright, if you claim ownership, you can use the ™ and SM symbols on your business name or logo at any time. But owning the federal trademark registration obviously has it's benefits legally. Some of which include, being able to defend your logo in federal courts, being listed in the USPTO database, and the use of the ® symbol. YES! You MUST be registered with the USPTO to use that symbol on your logos, etc. You cannot even use it if your application for registration is pending. So, there are great benefits to registering your business name and logo.
Now, keep in mind, the USPTO has the right to deny your registration application. Especially if there's a similar logo. So, you need to research and make sure your business name and logo are UNIQUE and fit federal regulations. When filing an application for trademark registration (or to get a service mark) you must file one application per category(class) you the need the service mark for. FOR EXAMPLE, if you need a service mark for a t-shirt logo AND for the store marquee, you must submit two applications. Application fees vary from $275-$325, depending on the type of application you submit.
I know it sounds a bit complex and confusing but registering your business name and logo are so worth the protection. Especially if you're an owner that offers services/goods, merchandiser, designer, or inventor that's about to BLOW UP! You can of course find out more and get an application at http://www.USPTO.gov
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