Copyright & Trademark Protection

Strengthen your brand and safeguard ideas.

What Is It?

Copyrights and trademarks are different types of “intellectual property,” a legal term that covers ownership rights over a variety of intangible assets, including writings, images, designs, and other works. Mainly, a copyright gives the owner protection over his or her original works that are “fixed” in some tangible form, like on a page, in a computer file, or on film. While a large number of things are eligible for copyright protection, certain items can’t be protected by copyright, such as ideas, methods, names, slogans, and non-creative works (like most spreadsheets). With a copyright, the owner can prevent others from using his or her original work without permission, with some limited exceptions.

A trademark is a distinctive name, phrase, or image that the owner uses to identify a product or service in commerce. Additionally, things such as product design, packaging, color, and sounds can also receive trademark protection. By registering a trademark, the owner can prevent competitors from using the same mark in commerce within a geographical area. Occasionally, an item protected by copyright may also be eligible for trademark protection, and vice versa. Each form of protection has special legal rights and remedies for infringement by others.

Is It for Me?

If you buy or sell products in the marketplace, whether created by you or by others, you can likely benefit from some form of copyright or trademark protection over your goods or services. An intellectual property strategy can’t completely prevent others from infringing on your copyrights or trademarks, but it can give you options to fight back if such a thing were to occur.

What Is Involved?

A copyright is automatically granted to the creator when his or her creative work is fixed into some tangible form. However, they can also be registered with the federal government, which gives additional rights and protections to the owner. This process is fairly quick and inexpensive. For a trademark, the process is a bit more complicated and the filing requirements are more expensive. The process takes about a year and can cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending how extensively the trademark is used in commerce.

What if I Do Nothing?

The laws which control copyrights and trademarks are somewhat confusing and there are a large number of misconceptions out there among small business owners. Without specifically addressing copyright and trademark issues in contracts, your intellectual property rights could be severely limited or eliminated. Additionally, without being proactive about copyright and trademark protection, you could limit the options available to combat copyright and trademark infringement, damaging your brand and reducing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Can I Do It Myself?

To a large degree, yes. While it’s important to have an attorney help you put together a comprehensive intellectual property strategy, the process of filing for copyrights and trademarks is not terribly complicated, and armed with a little knowledge, the average business owner can save money by doing some of the federal filings without an attorney. We add value by helping you determine the appropriate type of protection to obtain for your intellectual property and having a plan in place to manage and monitor the portfolio of copyrights and trademarks you assemble over time.

How Much Will It Cost?

Cost is largely contingent on the amount of intellectual property you have, the size of your market, and the amount of work you are willing to do yourself. Federal filing fees are $35-50 for copyrights and $275-325 for trademarks. Most clients can expect to pay between $500 to $1,250 for an initial strategy and between $100 to $250 in attorney fees associated with federal filings. All things considered, it’s fairly economical to protect your intellectual property.

Where Do I Start?

Develop a list of all names, designs, slogans, and other distinctive items you and your business use in the marketplace, and think about your current strategy for protecting those items. Then, give us a call at 704-325-9325 to schedule your consultation. We’ll talk about your business, learn about your goals, and work together to develop an intellectual property strategy that will protect your name, products, services, and competitive advantage.

Author: Nathan Workman