Copyrights and Trademarks -What’s the difference?

By John Anello Jr.

Juris Doctor

Business & Legal Affairs/Marketing/Intellectual Property & Copyrights




The length of a copyright under the 1976 Copyright Act is Life plus 70 years.  What this means is that if you copyright © your intellectual property, (song, poem, photo, text, software, etc) you own the rights for that material for the rest of your life plus seventy years after your death.  Your heirs will reap the benefits of your intellectual property royalties for an additional seventy years, after which time the material becomes part of the “Public Domain”, free to use by all.  This is contingent, however, on the proper filing of a copyright.  The copyright office does not send notice of improper copyrights, and if a copyright is not executed correctly, it could fall into public domain.  Consider the song “The Caissons Go Rolling Along”, which was filed with an incorrect copyright notice.  The song was not copyrighted and its owners lost all royalties to it, due to the improper copyright notice.  Many people in business will trademark a company logo, but not copyright the very information that the company generates (brochures, promos, ads, instruction booklets, flyers, etc) thus giving the competition plenty of opportunity to “steal their materials”.  Several countries are signatory to “Copyright Conventions”, which means they all agree on protecting each other’s copyrights.  Many European countries are members of the “Berne Convention”, in which agreements were made on both honoring copyrights, and the methods on which copyrights are established.  Some Latin American countries are members of the “Buenos Aires Convention”, which is similar to the Berne Convention.

Do you know the six things you cannot copyright?

(Ideas, blank forms, facts, short phrases, titles, and names.)



Do you know the difference between a Trademark and a Copyright?  Well, first of all, a Trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design or a combination thereof, that identifies the source of the goods or services of one party from those of another.  A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work.  Secondly, a Trademark identifies a certain company’s logo or moniker that makes it stand out from all others.  Under copyright law you cannot copyright a name; however, under Trademark law, you can register the name and logo of your business and the unique product or service it provides.  So how does one Trademark a company or brand name?  By simply using the name and logo of your company, followed by the symbol TM, you have begun the Trademark process.  If you use it long enough, you will establish a Trademark by common usage.  But it is still not a registered Trademark.  The best way is to register it with the trademark office.  The first thing involved  in registering it is a Trademark search, in which databases are searched to see if anyone else already has that name, or one very similar.  If you clear the name via a trademark search, then you register the trademark with the U.S. Trademark office, and the mark is represented by the symbol ®, which means it is a registered symbol. This gives your company added protection in case another company comes along, and tries to use a mark similar to yours to “cash in” on your fame, quality, or product uniqueness.

© John Anello Jr JD 2022