Launching a small business often means needing to protect your intellectual property. The type of protection you need – patent, trademark, or copyright – depends on the type of intellectual property you need to have protected and the protections required.
Patents and trademarks are handled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Copyrights can be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. While patents are issued for inventions and processes, either trademark or copyright protection might apply to an image, phrase, or symbol.
Which do you need?
Trademarks and Service Marks
A trademark identifies goods as originating from one particular party, while a service mark performs a similar task for services. Both may be a word, phrase, symbol, or design.
Trade and service marks are classically associated with particular brands of goods or services. They’re what allow popular rivalries such as “Coca-Cola or Pepsi?” to exist. Trademarks are a key part of building brand loyalty.
While you don’t have to register a trademark, doing so offers you and your business greater legal protection. Protections can include notice of ownership to the public, a legal presumption of ownership, and the exclusive right to use the mark in association with your goods or services.
A copyright protects works your company authors, like writings, music, and works of art. A work’s copyright can be registered if the work exists in a “tangible medium” – for instance, if it is written down, painted on canvas, printed from a computer screen, or recorded onto a tape or disk.
Like trademarks, copyrights DO NOT have to be registered in order to exist. However, registration entitles you to certain legal protections, like statutory damages in addition to actual damages if the copyright is infringed.
To learn more about intellectual property and protect the intellectual property that supports your business, talk to an experienced New York small business lawyer today.