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What is the difference between Copyright and Trademark?

Intellectual Property (IP) presents itself in different types. Copyright and trademark are two unique forms of IP, which protect different assets under a specific set of rules. Service marks and patents are also forms of IP.

Making a distinction between copyright and trademark is often confusing to business owners and registering under the incorrect IP can leave one’s assets vulnerable.

Here we’ve tried to explain the difference between copyrights and trademarks alongwith specifying when to use what.

Also read: What is a Patent? How can you get one?

What is Copyright?

Copyrights protect what is called the “original works of authorship”. An item of IP is usually copyrighted first to avoid any unwanted use. To have your works copyrighted, they have to have a tangible existence, which means the idea should be published somewhere it is accessible to others to see, hear or touch.

What is Intellectual Property Rights? IPR types explained

Creations like computer software, television, among several other gadgets and industrial designs all qualify for a copyright.

Domain names can’t be copyrighted, but your work on a website can. A recipe can be too, but the ingredients used can’t be copyrighted.

What can’t be Copyrighted?

  • Intangible work: Entities without any shape or form. For example, an unrecorded speech.
  • Titles: These include names, book titles, phrases, passages.
  • Procedures: Any method, process, concept, or discovery.
  • Common Property: Refers to the works that belong to the public domain. Conversions and historical facts fall under this term.

If the copyright expires, or the owner strikes it out, the work is then termed as a ‘public domain’.

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What is a Trademark?

Phrases, titles, names, slogans, logos can be trademarked. Trademark can also be a combination of everything. They act as a distinction between products of two companies.

If you own a patent on the product your business sells, you could also trademark the name of the product to prevent further unsolicited use. Another iteration of a trademark is a service mark for service businesses.

A courier service establishment uses service marks.

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Copyright vs Trademark

The table below highlights the differences between the two, specifying registrations and their uses.

ParametersCopyrightTrademark
Use Case Works of authorshipGoods and services
Register atCopyright OfficeIntellectual Property India
Symbol(c) Owner name on every workTM or SM prior to registration, ® afterwards.
ValidityLife of author + 60 years“Maintenance documents” need to be filed after a certain period.
Availability of International RegistrationInternational Copyright RegistrationThrough the Madrid protocol.

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When to use what?

Copyright secures the literary and artistic works of a person. Softwares and programs are referred to as ‘literary works’ under the Copyright Act, and the laws therein maintain the judicial decree of an individual to use their work.

Trademarks protect brand names, slogans, even titles. A trademark registration paves the way for a person to conduct business under a certain name with some unalienable rights.

Goods and services provided under this name remain secure and give owners complete control over their company’s products. Artists, painters, writers, developers copyright their works to make extensive amounts of their material exclusive to the author name.

Some names can be both copyrighted and trademarked. But using the correct type of IP is really important to cement and protect the uniqueness of one’s work.

Also read: What is Spam? A brief guide

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