If you are an artist, inventor, or other creative person, knowing the difference between copyrights, trademarks and patents is crucial to preserving the rights to your creations. The internet makes it easier than ever to steal someone else’s work, take credit for it and even make money from it.
Many laypeople don’t understand the difference between the three—if you are one of them, you are not alone. The following overview will help you determine where your work product falls.
Of course, we always recommend talking to an intellectual property attorney in Denver, CO to make sure you’re fully protected. There’s no substitute for legal expertise tailored to your specific situation.
Copyright law protects original artistic works, whether it is a novel, an oil painting or even street art. Once you create that work in a tangible form (even electronic), copyright law protects the work. As the copyright holder, you have the exclusive right to reproduce your work and make money from it. When someone else reproduces your work, they infringe you copyright.
You do not have to register for a copyright—but you might choose to, as it will give you the opportunity to seek up to $150,000 in damages if someone violates your rights. Copyrights last the creator’s life plus 70 years (in the United States—some countries have longer or shorter statutes), or if a corporation creates the content, 95 years. Registration typically costs between $45 and $65 and will protect your royalties if the work takes off.
Trademarks protect a word, phrase, symbol or device—the mark—used in commerce to identify and distinguish one producer from another. A trademark can be a brand name, but it also can be a slogan or catch phrase. Trademarks can be renewed forever (they don’t expire like copyrights do) as long as they’re still being used in the market.
If you want to adopt a trademark (or want to object to someone else’s trademark), the key is to focus on whether the mark is so similar that it would confuse the average consumer as the source of the goods or services.
Finally, patents protect new “useful” and “non-obvious” inventions, whether they are new toys, industrial machinery, or pharmaceuticals. Patents last 20 years and serve to give the inventor the exclusive right to use and profit off the technology. Once the patent has expired, anyone can use it for free.
To determine whether you should file for copyrights, trademarks or patents, speak to an intellectual property attorney in Denver, CO at Thomas P. Howard LLC today.