When it comes to trademark law, there exists a lot of confusion between copyright and trademark. Most people don’t know the differences, or which type of protection they need for their intellectual property. Understanding these laws is essential for business owners looking to protect their work, products, logos, and brands. This article outlines the differences between copyright and trademark protections, with a specific focus on New York-based business owners.

Copyright laws are designed to protect an author’s creative works. This includes creative expression such as books, music, art, paintings, videos, cartoons, photographs, architectural designs, software, and more. Copyright law applies once the work is registered with the US Copyright Office, giving the author exclusive ownership over that work, and prohibiting others from reproducing, publicly performing, or selling it without the author’s permission.

Copyright protection does not protect titles, slogans, phrases, ideas, concepts, domain names, or characters. These fall under trademark law. In the United States, trademarks are governed by the Lanham Act. A trademark is a unique identifier that distinguishes your brand or product. It may include words, symbols, designs, logos, color, product shape, phrase, scent, or sound. A trademark should not be confused with a service mark, which is specifically used to distinguish services rather than products and goods.

Trademark protection is granted to those who use a particular mark in commerce. In New York State, you must prove that you have used the mark in commerce in the state for it to be registered. An experienced business attorney can help local business owners understand exactly what types of protection their work falls under. Once a mark is registered, a business receives exclusive registration rights throughout the United States.

New York-based business owners should be aware that their mark can also exist as a common law trademark, afforded some protection in certain locations, even though it is not registered. The two differ in that common law trademark protection is granted for as long as a trademark is used in the appropriate geographic area, and only applies in that region. Registered trademarks provide the best level of protection, cover the entire United States, and last for longer periods of time.

In order to protect your intellectual property, it is important to understand whether it falls under copyright or trademark law. New York based business owners should always turn to experienced legal professionals for advice, since this is a complex area of law. Seeking out the guidance of a business lawyer helps ensure that the business’s valuable resources remain protected.




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