You know that you need to protect your brand and your marketing materials, you’re just not sure how.
Understanding proper copyright or trademark use protects your brand and your business.
Which to Use: Copyright or Trademark?
Your brand and all the marketing materials that build your brand are intellectual property.
Copyright and trademark provide legal protection of different types of intellectual property.
Why Should I Use a Trademark or Copyright?
Simply put, to protect your intellectual property. Use of copyright and trademark symbols may discourage others from either inadvertent or intentional use of your property potentially saving you frustration, time and money.
If you have a registered trademark, use of the mark aids your case when pursuing your rights because courts have traditionally ruled that if a trademark owner properly uses the registration symbol, others may not claim ignorance of the trademark therefore protecting your rights.
How Should a Copyright Be Used?
The copyright symbol may be placed on any original piece of work and that work does not have to be registered in order to use the copyright symbol.
Best practice is to include the year of first publication and the name of the copyright holder beside the copyright symbol and place prominently in either the front or back of the publication however, there are no specific legal requirements regarding this.
For websites and other digital property that is continually updated, it is best practice to include the year of most recent publication and name of copyright holder beside the copyright symbol and place prominently in the footer of the home page or contact page.
How Should a Trademark Symbol be Used?
Ensure that the proper mark is prominently displayed once on your website, advertisement, brochure, press release, article or other published materials.
Best practice is to use the proper symbol once with either the first instance of the mark appearing or, the most prominent mark placement.
Do not make the mistake of jamming a trademark symbol every time a mark is used. Overuse makes for poor design and visual clutter that undermines your marketing efforts.
Interestingly, symbol placement is not stipulated by law however, the proper symbol is traditionally placed in the upper right-hand or lower right-hand corner of a mark.
Three are commonly used and recognized in the United States. Which one should be used depends on your situation. If you are trying to safeguard something that is not registered through the U.S Patent and Trademark Office, you should use either the TM or SM symbol: TM for trademarks that represent goods, SM for service marks that represent services. TM is typically recommended for marks covering products and services.
The circle R (®) is a federal registration symbol used for goods and/or services registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. State registrations do not qualify.
We hope this helps you make smarter decisions about your marketing. Note that this article is not legal advice and provided only to arm you with a general understanding of copyright and trademark use.
Prepared by Chris Lowers, January 17th, 2018