For entrepreneurs and companies based in Chicago, the laws governing copyrights and trademarks can be confusing. Several questions regularly pop up, such as what constitutes copyright infringement, how to go about acquiring a trademark, and which aspects of a company's work are legally protected. Understanding the differences between these two kinds of intellectual property and the laws that surround them is essential for any Chicago company.

To help untangle this complex network, this article will explain key concepts of copyright versus trademark law in Chicago and answer the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for business owners. The answers provided in this article are based on current US intellectual property laws. Before making any decisions regarding either intellectual property ownership, it is recommended that business owners hire legal counsel that is familiar with local regulation.

What is the Difference Between a Copyright and a Trademark?

The primary difference between a copyright and a trademark is the subject they protect. A copyright protects works of authorship such as artwork, music, literature, and videos. A trademark is a symbol, logo, or phrase used to identify services and products. A copyright is meant to protect a creative work, while a trademark is meant to protect the reputation of the goods or services associated with it.

Copyright law is designed to protect the expression of ideas. It is up to the author or creator to decide how they want their work to be used and distributed. By contrast, trademark law is focused on protecting a product, company, or service from use by other parties. It is often used to distinguish a company’s offerings from those of other entities, typically to make sure company offerings are not confused with another product on the market.

What is Protected by Copyright Law?

In general, copyright laws in the US protect creative works such as written works, photographs, videos, music, and artwork. Upon creation, a copyright is automatically granted to the creator. That said, it is recommended to register a copyright with the US Copyright Office in order to have a better chance of protecting the work.

The copyright holder is the only person that is legally allowed to reproduce, distribute, or perform the work. The copyright holder is also the only one allowed to grant permission to other people or entities to reproduce or use the work.

What is Protected by Trademark Law?

In the US, trademarks cover symbols, logos, or words that are associated with a company’s services or goods. By registering for a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office, a company can ensure that the trademark is legally protected.

Once registered, the trademark can be used to prevent other companies from using that name or logo without permission. It is also possible to obtain international trademark protection. To do this, business owners can register trademarks in other countries to protect their products or services abroad.

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses protected work without permission. This can include reproducing, distributing, or performing the work without authorization from the copyright holder.

Copyright infringement can lead to serious legal consequences, such as fines or jail time. To avoid potential infringement of someone else’s copyrighted work, consider obtaining written permission to use the material before publication.

What is Trademark Infringement?

Trademark infringement occurs when a company uses a name, logo, or phrase owned by another company for their own product or services. Trademark infringement is considered a form of unfair competition and is illegal in many countries.

Trademark infringement can lead to legal action, including financial damages. To avoid someone else’s trademark, it is important to research a unique name for a product or company before making it public.

How Can a Business Protect Its Intellectual Property?

The best way for a business to protect its intellectual property is to register trademarks and copyrights with the appropriate government agency, such as the US Copyright Office or the US Patent and Trademark Office. This will provide legal protection in the event that someone tries to steal the company’s ideas or creations.

Additionally, companies should hire an attorney that is familiar with local copyright and trademark laws. Copyright and trademark attorneys can provide knowledge about intellectual property protection, helping to ensure that the company’s ideas and products are safe.

Concluding remarks

Understanding the differences between copyright and trademark laws, and the best practices for protecting intellectual property, are essential for Chicago business owners. This article provides an overview of these key concepts and answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about copyright and trademark law. For more detailed information and legal advice, it is recommended to consult with legal counsel that is familiar with local regulation.