Is a Phrase Copyrighted or Trademarked?
Is a phrase copyrighted or trademarked? Usually, a phrase would be protected by a trademark, as copyrights are for more lengthy, creative works.3 min read
2. How Are Copyrights and Trademarks Registered?
3. Should I Copyright or Trademark a Phrase?
4. The Benefits of Registering Your Phrase
How Are Copyrights and Trademarks Used?
Copyrights and trademarks are types of intellectual property protection. The laws surrounding these protections encourage creativity and reward original thinking. Copyrights are generally used to protect works like:
Trademarks are usually registered to protect catch phrases and terms. This type of IP (intellectual property) protection is mostly used in marketing. When companies want to be known by their particular name or symbol for their product, they will typically trademark it to prevent others from using it.
Think of the Pepsi symbol. Pepsi has become such a popular brand that, when consumers see that symbol, assume Pepsi created the product. If that symbol wasn't trademarked, a different soda company could put the Pepsi logo on their products in order to sell more, essentially stealing the reputation Pepsi has built and misrepresented the brand.
The three main types of IP protection are:
- Copyrights - original literary and artistic works.
- Trademarks - original phrases, logos, brand names, etc.
- Patents - an invented product or process.
How Are Copyrights and Trademarks Registered?
If you're looking to register a copyright or trademark, you can do so with the State through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Registration of copyrights and trademarks is not required in order to enforce your ownership over a particular work or phrase, but it helps. When a work is protected through the USPTO and registered, it makes it easy for the court to determine rightful ownership. Technically, anytime an original work is created, it's protected, but the registration makes that protection stronger.
You can search for copyrights and trademarks by visiting these online databases and typing in the work or phrase you're looking into:
- Copyright public catalog.
- Trademark electronic search system.
These databases will allow you to look at either current or expired results, so you can see if your name or work will infringe on a currently protected piece of intellectual property or if it has been protected in the past. When choosing business names or marketing slogans, it's good to avoid anything that was previously used so potential customers aren't confused.
Should I Copyright or Trademark a Phrase?
Trademark protection applies to any of the following:
When such creations represent a certain product in commerce, they are automatically trademarked, but it is still better to officially register them. Marketplace identification is vital to successful marketing, and IP protection upholds the distinguishing characteristics between various creations.
Sometimes trademarks lead to a more solid reputation for a company. Think of the expensive designers or brands you know for clothing. There are certain symbols that suggest a level of quality to the buyer because they are associated with the company that makes the product or process. A phrase should be trademarked, not copyrighted.
Registering a trademark with the USPTO is simple and not very time-consuming but can take time to approve. If you hope to enforce your ownership over a specific trademark, you'll want to get it registered before it's too late. There are many benefits to copyright and trademark possession.
The Benefits of Registering Your Phrase
If you register your trademark, you'll know that it is legally valid and protected. Infringement lawsuits tend to go a lot more smoothly when involving a registered copyright or trademark. Without a registered trademark, the owner of the trademark has to prove ownership and originality. With a registered trademark, the burden of proof lies with the accused infringer to prove that the trademark shouldn't be protected.
Registered trademarks are valid across the United States, so if you protect your phrase used in California, someone in New York can't use it. The territorial ownership belongs to the trademark owner and covers the whole country.
Trademarks registered with the USPTO, are enforceable through the federal court system. This should deter any potential infringers for fear of a costly lawsuit. If someone infringes on your protected phrase, you have to file a lawsuit in order to hold them accountable.
If you need help understanding if a phrase is copyrighted or trademarked, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.