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What’s the Difference between Copyrights and Trademarks

Trademarks and copyrights are often confused, and for good reason, since there is some overlap. Copyrights cover creative or intelligent works, while trademarks are source-identifying marks. And to blur the lines a bit, some forms of works can fall into both categories, like logos and jingles, which can be considered both creative works and source-identifying marks.

Where do I get a Copyright/Trademark?

These two intellectual property assets are governed by two different offices, copyrights being controlled by the U.S. Copyright Office and trademarks (along with patents) being managed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and additionally by state trademark offices. While trademarks can applied for at both a state and federal level, there is no such thing as a state copyright.

How Long Does a Copyright/Trademark Last?

The life expectancy for copyrights is significantly shorter than that of trademarks. As long as a trademark is used and maintained, it can live forever. On the other hand, a copyright’s life expectancy will depend on the filer. A copyright filed by an individual can only survive for the life of that individual plus 70 years. A copyright filed by a business can live 120 years from the date of creation. Some exceptions apply, so speak with a copyright attorney.

What do I need to File a Copyright/Trademark Application?

When filing for a registered work, a copyright must first exist in a tangible form. That means that it needs to be written out, typed to paper or saved on your computer. “Living works of art” like floral arrangements, typically cannot be protected.

What Symbol Do I Use?

To give proper notice of your copyright to the world, you’ll want to attach the copyright symbol to your work. You can do so by using the word “copyright” (or its abbreviation), the year the work was first published, and the name of the owner. For example, at the bottom of the Rockridge website, which the firm claims as its copyrighted work, you’ll see “© 2020 Rockridge Venture Law.”

What are the Benefits to Copyright and Trademark Protection?

When you receive your copyright or trademark registration, you’ll not just have peace of mind, but also access to a number of market and legal benefits.

What Damages do I get from Infringement?

A very significant difference between copyrights and trademarks is the infringement damages tied to either form of intellectual property. Under copyright law, copyright holders are entitled to receive minimum statutory damages, and do not have to prove actual damages from the infringement. Statutory damages for infringements that cannot be clearly proven as either innocent or willful are usually between $750 and $30,000 per work, as determined by the court. The exact amount depends on the seriousness of the infringing act and the financial worth of the infringer. On the other hand, an innocent infringer—that is, someone who didn’t know they were violating copyright law– may have to pay as little as $200 per work. This would be especially true if the work did not have a proper copyright notice. An intentional or willful infringer may have to pay as much as $150,000 for a single infringement of one work.

About RVL®

Rockridge Venture Law® is a certified B Corp law firm embracing the mantra of technology lawyers for good. Rockridge® services include corporate, intellectual property, litigation, M&A, privacy, technology, and venture capital law. Rockridge has been recognized as a B Corp Best for the World and Real Leaders Top 150 Impact Company, and has been featured by Conscious Company Magazine, Forbes, and other top media focused on industry leaders in impact and innovation.

The Rockridge team has worked with Grammy winners, Nobel Prize winners, and world champion athletes to create and monetize distinctive intellectual property assets. Rockridge clients include founders, investors, and multinationals scaling disruptive technologies and iconic brands. Rockridge is headquartered in Tennessee, with satellite offices in Durham, New Haven, and New York.

We’re Building Today’s Company for Tomorrow’s Economy® by leading clients through the dizzying array of information controls, by helping them to develop and monetize proprietary assets, and by enabling their impactful products, programs, and principles.

See case studies on how we’ve helped transformative companies at Rockridge Case Studies.

Please note that this guide is for informational and advertisement purposes only. The use of this guide does not constitute an attorney client relationship. As laws frequently change and may be interpreted differently, RVL® does not in any way guarantee the accuracy or applicability of this information.

Kevin Christopher

Author Kevin Christopher

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