Trademark vs Copyright: Which One Is More Important for Your Business?

Leave your (trade)mark on the world by creating something that nobody else can copy(right). Let’s break down the key differences between the trademark vs. copyright (™ & ©) laws and discover the distinctions that make each protection a true asset!

What Is a Trademark?

Think of that word, that phrase, or that symbol that makes you think of a business. Maybe it’s the “ba da bam bam bam… I’m lovin’ it” from a McDonald’s commercial, or that nostalgic Windows tune when you open a laptop with that green field and blue sky background.

Trademarks are identifiers and distinguishers of a brand.

What Does a Trademark Protect?

Trademarks can be used to protect a wide variety of things, including:

  • Product names
  • Brand names
  • Logos
  • Slogans
  • Phrases
  • Designs
  • Colors
  • Sounds
  • Smells
  • Website URLs

When Do You Need a Trademark?

For businesses that want to build brand recognition and loyalty, trademarks are a huge deal, especially as a company is building itself up to be “well-known” or “popular.” Registering a trademark is great for when businesses are finding that some competitors might be using confusingly similar language or marks or other trademark protection indicators, perhaps confusing audiences with two different organizations that sound similar.

You should also get a trademark if you want to avoid counterfeiting or fraud, which could happen when other companies are creating eerily similar products as you are. Legally, trademark laws will protect you.

How Long Does a Trademark Last?

Unlike copyrights, trademarks won’t expire after a certain amount of time has passed. A federal trademark last 10 years from the date it’s registered, with the potential for it to have an unlimited set number of 10-year renewal terms. The important thing for business owners to know is that they should continue renewing it if they plan to continue using it. They’ll likely be working with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) upon renewals.

How to Register for a Trademark?

It’s pretty simple!

  1. Decide on Your Trademark: Is it an animation, a jingle, or a color scheme? If you’re looking to trademark your brand, slogan, or product name, you likely want to establish yourself as an industry leader and stand out from the crowd.
  2. Search the USPTO’s Trademark Database: You can find out here which trademarks are in use. It will save you time from the potential of getting rejected because of a “likelihood of confusion” refusal.
  3. Register Your Database: Register what you want to trademark on the same website above once you’ve ensured it is not in use or similar to someone else’s.
  4. Use Your Trademark: Brand your business!

How to Protect a Trademark?

The first thing to ensure your trademark is legally protected is to register using the steps above. From there, use it! The more you use your trademark, the more widely it’s recognized, and the stronger it becomes in case of any lawsuits.

What Is a Copyright?

Now that you know the tricks of the trade(marks), let’s head over to copyrighting, a different process in the world of protecting your business’s identifiers.

The first thing about copyright to know: while you can register for official copyright, in America, copyright protection is automatic. That means you don’t technically need to register for copyright to protect your work.

What Does a Copyright Protect?

But what work does this include? Everything from:

  • Books
  • Poems
  • Scripts
  • Songs
  • Compositions
  • Plays
  • Paintings
  • Photographs
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works
  • Compilations of data

Copyrighted work is something someone has created. It’s a bit different from a trademark because it’s a full work or compilation of work that someone has done, protected automatically but gives the offer for more protection if needed.

When Do You Need a Copyright?

When you want to protect your original work of authorship, such as a book, song, movie, or software program, you need a copyright.

Something key to note: copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. For example, you can’t copyright the idea about a vampire and a girl’s love story, but you could copyright the specific words and phrases that you use to write the book.

How Long Does a Copyright Last?

The copyright is a little different based on when the work was created. For works created before January 1, 1978, the copyright term is 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.

For works that are created after January 1, 1978 (and for when you write your first best-seller!) the copyright term is the life of the author plus an additional 70 years.

As with everything, there are some exceptions to this rule. The U.S. government has specific protection that can extend beyond traditional copyright laws.

How to Register for a Copyright?

You can register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office online or by mail. Prepare to submit an application, a copy of your work, and a filing fee.

Once your copyright is registered, you will receive a certificate of registration from the Copyright Office. This certificate is proof of your copyright ownership and can be used to enforce your copyright rights.

How to Protect a Copyright?

Take action to be protected. Use several different precautions to protect your work, like registering, using a copyright notice on your work, and keeping your work as confidential as possible (or with lots of logs to prove that you’re the original creator).

By taking these steps, you can help to protect your copyright and ensure that you are the only one who can profit from your creative work.

Protect Yourself Like a Pro With doola

Business owners and creators need a specialist in their corner to help them scale their business so they can ensure their work is always close to them. 

With doola’s bookkeeping services, you’ll receive a monthly report of your business financials so you can spend time building and growing the work you’re putting out into the world. Start here!


Is copyright more powerful than a trademark?

Copyright and trademark are two different types of intellectual property protection. While copyright protects original works of authorship like books, music, and movies, trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, and designs that identify the source of goods or services.

What are the three limitations of copyright?

1. Copyright protection doesn’t extend to ideas, procedures, methods, systems, concepts, principles, or discoveries– just work that someone has created.
2. Copyright protection does not extend to facts, data, or raw materials provided to create those works– just the work itself.
3. Copyright protection does not extend to works that are not fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

Is a logo a trademark?

Yes, a logo is a type of trademark. Since a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A logo is a visual trademark that’s often used to identify a company or product.

What are the four things that cannot be copyrighted?

Raw materials, systems, facts, or works that are in the public domain.

What are the four types of trademarks?

Generic: Using a generic word to emphasize a brand
Descriptive: A word that’s used with a distinctive and memorable product
Suggestive: For businesses with generic words put together to create a name, for example, Net + flix
Arbitrary or Fanciful: For businesses with names distinct to them, like Canva or Shopify.

doola's website is for general information purposes only and doesn't provide official law or tax advice. For tax or legal advice we are happy to connect you to a professional in our network! Please see our terms and privacy policy. Thank you and please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions.

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