As a business owner, you know that protecting your intellectual property is one of your top priorities. You have undoubtedly heard the terms “copyright” and “trademark” before and recognize them as ways to shield your product and branding from infringement.
What you might not realize is that a copyright and a trademark are two different things that protect your company’s intellectual in different ways. Most Houston business owners would benefit from at least one, and probably both, of these tools provided by federal law.
A copyright protects a tangible, original work, such as a manuscript for a book, song composition or photograph. Copyright protection is especially important in the creative arts, as well as businesses involved in software development. Technically, your copyright to a work goes into effect once you have fixed it in a tangible form (e.g., written it down, saved it to your computer, printed it out, etc.). But registering your copyright with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can help you enforce it later, if necessary.
A trademark applies to words, phrases, designs and combinations of these three that identify your products or services and distinguishes them from your competition. Think of Coca-Cola’s name, red cans and script logo. These are all trademarked, and any attempt by another soft drink company to use them in their advertising or packaging would quickly lead to legal action from Coca-Cola. Registering trademarks for your identifying branding gives your business the same rights.
Proper use of the IP tools available to your business can save it considerable money and headaches. Consulting with an attorney who works in intellectual property law is a good first step.