Copyright vs Trademark

[BONUS: I will be talking about this topic on Nov 16, 2017 at McLean Business Forum. Join me and 50+ other entrepreneurs and business leaders at 7:00AM, Courtyard Marriott, Tysons Corner, VA. Contact me for more details: [email protected]]

You’re probably excited about your attention-grabbing logo or other marketing materials for your company. But do you know whether your logo is protected by copyright or trademark rights, or does it even make a difference?

Most people confuse copyrights and trademarks. That is understandable because both of these types of intellectual property deal with words and images. So which registration is the right one for you to seek? The easiest way to tell these type of properties apart is to look at the different rights conferred to the owner of each under the law.

Copyright Rights

Copyright protect original works of authorship (creation of a creative work). Owners of copyright have the following exclusive rights:

to reproduce the work (make copies of it),

to distribute copies of the work,

to publicly display the work, such as on your website,

to perform the work, in the case of a song or a stage play,

to create derivative works, which includes things like translation into another language, taking photographs or making posters out of paintings, modifying the original slightly..


Anyone who does one or more of these things with your original work without the owner’s permission is guilty of copyright infringement (unless they have a “fair use” exemption or they are an original author too…more on those things in another post).


Trademark Rights

Trademark protects the linkage between a product and the maker of that product. Owners of trademark on an image (or phrase) have the following exclusive rights:

to use the image in connection with the marketing and sale of a specific set of goods and/or services


Anyone who, without authorization from the trademark owner, uses the same of similar mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services


Which Rights Depend On Which Use

The same piece of art can have both copyright and trademark protection, depending on how it is used. An example is this: what happens when you use an independent contractor to create your logo. That contractor creates and sells to you a piece of artwork that is protected by copyright, and he (hopefully) transfers ownership of the copyright to you when you pay him for it (how that is done is the subject of another blog post).


But when you use that piece of art on your website or in your marketing materials as a way to distinguish your company and products from your competitors, you are using the artwork as a trademark.



Argent Place Law, PLLC is dedicated to the vision of having an entrepreneur in every household, because we believe that only entrepreneurs can save the world! Our mission is to help entrepreneurs just like you manage your business relationships and protect your ideas by using the law to your advantage.