Trademarks and Copyrights are two of the big four U.S. intellectual property rights. While they overlap in some areas, it’s important to make a distinction between trademarks vs copyrights.
A trademark (TM) is a symbol, word, or phrase that connects a product to a company. A service mark (SM) is a symbol, word, or phrase that connects services to the service provider. A federal registration gives the owner exclusive right to use this registered symbol, word, or phrase throughout the U.S. Federal registration prohibits others from using the same or similar marks, which could confuse consumers about whose product or service they are purchasing. Trademarks are renewable, and thus, do not expire as long as you continue to maintain the mark and use it in commerce.
A copyright is an original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished original works. However, copyright protects the author’s expression not simply his/her idea. For works created by an individual, copyright protection lasts for the individual’s life plus 70 years. For Anonymous works, Pseudonymous works, or works made for hire, copyrights are protected for 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first. Works covered by copyright include but are not limited to: (1) literary works (which includes computer software); (2) musical works, including any accompanying words; (3) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; (4) motion pictures and other audiovisual works; and (5) sound recordings.
While trademarks and copyrights may overlap, especially in the entertainment and fashion industries, it’s important to understand the differences between trademarks vs copyrights.