Trade marks v Copyright
Clients occasionally seek legal advice concerning intellectual property (IP), specifically, trade marks (TM) and copyright, to provide businesses or individuals with protection. In most cases, clients ask for their work to be copyrighted, but generally the most suitable option for a company is, in actuality, a trade mark.
Many would ask what the difference between these two terms are. The main difference is that trade mark protection needs to be registered, whereas copyright protection is automatic.
A trade mark is an important form of protection to consider when naming a business, service, or product, as this becomes the brand name (and company asset). If the brand name or logo is registered as a TM, this will prohibit others from using the IP.
The name or logo that one creates must be unique, garnering recognition for the service or product instantly; however, using words that describe what one does, or words that are specific to the area of work, is not something that can be protected as a trade mark.
Copyright, on the other hand, allows for one to gain the exclusive control of their works. This can include: literature, art, photographs, software, film and so on. In the United Kingdom, copyright is applied automatically once that piece of work is recorded, in any type of format. It protects the work from unauthorised reproduction, but it does not distinguish a piece work from others, neither does it prohibit the concept of the work to be copied in another format by others (not involving a formal registration). This legal right usually lasts the life span of the creator plus 70 years after their death.
As a demonstrative example, the following shows how TM and copyright can be applied in the music industry. If a band sought out legal advice, their music would fall under copyright protection and the band name could be protected as a trade mark.
By Saarah Ahmed- a law student at the University of Southampton