Copyrights and trademarks are different protections for intellectual property. The type of property determines which type of protection you need. For example, copyrights protect intellectually created works in a tangible medium, such as photographs or song lyrics. Trademarks protect logos or phrases that you use to identify your business.
If you have a copyright, it eventually expires. Trademarks can continue as long as you keep using them. If you have a copyright or a trademark, you can register it with the government and receive extra benefits.
If you create an eligible work for your own company, you own the copyright and the protection goes into effect right away. If you hire someone else to create a work for you, you may still own the copyright if it qualifies as a “work for hire.” According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, this is an important distinction because it determines how long the copyright lasts. The copyrights on a work for hire last either 120 years from the year of its creation or 95 years from the year it was first published, whichever is shorter. This could make a difference if the work does not go into publication until years following its creation.
If you create a work yourself for which you retain the copyright, it expires 70 years following the death of the author, in this case, you. In other words, if you create a work that was not for hire, your copyright protection continues as long as you live and for decades thereafter but eventually expires.
Trademark protection can continue indefinitely as long as you keep using the mark to advertise your business or advertise it to potential customers. Your trademark protection is in jeopardy if you stop using the mark.
Registering your mark with the government offers you additional protection, but there are things you must do to keep the registration active. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, these include demonstrating the use of your trademark by filing certain forms at regular intervals.
Deadlines apply to these filings, so if you do not submit your paperwork by the required date, you could lose your trademark registration.