What you need to Know about Trademarks and Copyrights
Is your business protected from infringement? Trademarks and copyrights are a necessity when running a business, and trademark attorney Andrea Sager is giving us all the details on the application process, what you actually need, and how to protect your business against infringement.
HOW DID SHE GET HERE?
Andrea was born and raised right outside of Houston, but moved to Kentucky right after high school. To avoid feeling homesick, she got involved in just about everything, including joining the Kentucky National Guard. It ended up motivating her to go to law school, and she landed a great job in Cincinnati right after graduation. She quickly realized it wasn’t the job for her.
Andrea ended up working with a lot of boutique owners and found that small business owners really seemed to struggle with copyrights and trademarks. She realized that this was a need that she could fill, so right after moving back to Houston with her husband and their son, she started her own firm, focusing on helping entrepreneurs and small business owners remotely with their copyrights and trademarks.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TRADEMARK AND A COPYRIGHT?
The easiest way to remember the difference is that a copyright is your creative works and a trademark is for your branding. A copyright could be photography, designs, blog posts - any content that you create. A trademark, on the other hand, is anything that identifies your brand - this could be your brand name, logo, or your slogan.
WHY IS A COPYRIGHT/TRADEMARK NECESSARY?
Having a copyright or trademark registration gives you the rights to take legal action when someone uses your work or infringes on your brand. While the creator of a work (for example a photographer taking photos) holds the copyright from the moment the work is published, have a legally filed copyright gives the creator the legal grounds to sue someone who uses that work without their permission. Obviously you hope you never have to sue anyone, but having a copyright or trademark already filed is saving you time, money, and a headache if the issue ever presents itself.
WHAT IS INFRINGEMENT AND WHAT SHOULD SOMEONE DO IF THEIR COPYRIGHT OR TRADEMARK IS INFRINGED UPON?
Copyright infringement is where someone steals your work without permission. For example, if someone reposts a photo without a license to do so. You have to be aware of what your posting, and know that it’s your own content that you have the right to share. You can also be liable for infringement by using someone else’s designs, which is why you should be especially careful when using things as “inspiration.”
If you want to steer clear of infringement, you have to be original.
Trademark infringement occurs when you have two businesses that are in the same or similar operations and the names of the business/brand are the same or similar. The test for deciding if something is considered similar is by asking if it causes confusion. For example, if two shops sell similar types of products and the names are similar but not the same, it could still cause confusion for customers, so it would be considered trademark infringement.
While you may think you’ve done plenty of research on Google and social media, it’s always best to run an official trademark search to make sure that you’re avoiding infringement before you launch a new brand or business.
DOES A TRADEMARK COVER SOCIAL MEDIA?
Yes, most of the time. If someone takes your business name and creates an Instagram account with that name, it would most likely be considered trademark infringement. Most social media platforms have a quick and easy reporting form that you can fill out where you can provide your trademark information. If it does turn out to be infringement, that platform will remove the account that’s infringing on your trademark.
WHAT DOES THE APPLICATION PROCESS LOOK LIKE?
Copyright applications tend to be easier, only because there’s not a lot of back and forth. If you’re doing the application yourself, it may take a while to get it right, but the overall application takes about 10-15 minutes, and you’ll hear back in a few months.
Trademark applications are a little more tricky because there are so many registrations, so it’s better to hire a trademark attorney than to go it alone. Start with an official search, then fill out the application. You’ll hear back in a few months with an approval or an office action (a refusal). If you receive an office action, there may be further actions you can take or further information you can provide to try to get your application approved.
BONUS! GET ACCESS TO ANDREA’S SMALL BIZ VAULT (WITH FREE CONTRACTS)!
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