Trademark, copyright, and patent law all fall under the umbrella of intellectual property law. Intellectual property refers to things created with the mind. Just as tangible property can be protected, so can intellectual property through the legal recognition of the owner’s rights to the property. People are often confused about what type of property is protected through trademark, copyright and patent law. Often, the best way to explain complex legal concepts such as intellectual property law is by way of illustration. Therefore, let’s imagine we have a rock band called “Gerborama” and that our band wants to protect what it believes to be some of its intellectual property creations.
Trademark law would protect our band’s name, slogan, and logo. Although most bands don’t use a slogan, the band’s name and logo are typically prominent on CDs, in the iTunes store, and on merchandise such as T-shirts and posters sold by the band. It would be very important for us to protect these brand assets. Although it’s possible to file a name, slogan, and logo under one trademark application, it is not recommended. This is because if we register “Gerborama” with our logo, we would be required to use the name and logo in the exact combination as they were submitted on our federal trademark registration every time we used them. We could not, for example, decide to redesign our logo and retain our federal trademark rights in the old logo. If we did that, not only would we potentially lose our federal trademark registration in the logo, we could even lose the registration status on the trademark name Gerborama unless we filed a new application. Therefore, the best advice is to register the trademark and the logo separately.
Copyright law is used to protect the rights of the creator of a piece of work. The work could be a photograph, a writing, and expression of an idea, a video, or in the case of our band, a song. Think of a copyright as a way to prevent others from using or copying art. As music is a form of art, all parts of our song, from the sheet music to the lyrics, would be covered under copyright law. Once we copyright a song, no one may copy or adapt that song without our permission.
Patent law covers inventions. For example, imagine that our band Gerborama decided to retire from playing music but since we all still have a passion for music we put our knowledge and experience together and invented a musical instrument called a Gerbophone, Gerborama could file a patent to protect the invented Gerbophone. Once we patent the Gerbophone no one else can make, use, offer for sale, or sell the invention without our permission.
In summary, our band could benefit from all three types of intellectual property law protection. Since trademarks apply to a name, logo, or slogan we could register both the name of our band and our slogan. This will prevent others from using the same name and/or slogan. We can then copyright all songs we write because copyright protects works of art. Our copyright will prevent other from using or adopting our songs. Finally, we can apply for a patent for the musical instrument that we invent during retirement. The patent prevents others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling our invention.
Copyrights, trademarks, and patents all fall under the umbrella of intellectual property but serve very important and unique functions. Now that you have a better understanding of copyrights, trademarks, and patents you are in a better position to protect your intellectual property.