Copyrights – Top 10 Questions
Print this article
Font Size
Questions 1 – 3
View ArticleView Article Comments

Question 1 – What are the differences between a copyright, trademark, and patent

To answer this question you need to know the definitions of a copyright, trademark, and patent.

In short, a copyright is a legal concept that protects works of authorship (e.g. such as short stories, books, music, plays, choreographies, architectures, movies, etc.) that are fixed in some kind of tangible medium of expression (e.g. on paper, on a recording device, in any kind of fixed material). But a copyright does not protect the actual ideas, procedures, processes, systems, or discoveries in the copyright. For example, if you write a song about love, you cannot copyright the idea of love. Rather, you can only copyright your expression of love in the song.

A trademark is a legal concept that protects words, names, symbols, logos, and devices used in connection with goods or services to indicate the source of those goods and services. In short, a trademark is a source identifier. This means a trademark is a "mark" used for consumers so they can easily identify and differentiate between different products and services in the marketplace.

A patent is a legal concept that grants protections to individuals who create a new invention. Technically speaking, a patent grants the holder of the patent the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention.

It’s important to understand the difference between copyrights, trademarks, and patents because they all have unique rules that govern their creation and use.

Question 2 – How Do You Create a Copyright?

As soon as you take some work of authorship and put it into a fixed tangible medium of expression you’ve created a copyright! In other words, copyrights are automatically created by the author. For example, if you write a short poem on piece of paper right now, you’ve created a copyright! That’s it. You don’t have to technically do anything else.

However, if you want to protect your work, it’s generally a very good idea to register your copyright with the United States and Patent Trademark Office. Why? Because if you don’t and someone else steals your work it may be very difficult and costly (e.g. you’ll likely have to hire a lawyer) to prove that you were the original owner of the work! Plus, registration of a copyright gives the copyright owner many other great benefits.

Question 3 – What Cannot Be Protected by Copyright?

Some works which cannot be protected by copyright include:
  • Titles, phrases, names, symbols, slogans, etc. cannot be copyrighted. Why? Because these types of works generally fall under trademark law. In other words, you’d likely be better off creating a trademark.
  • Ideas, concepts, discoveries, processes, procedures, etc. cannot by copyrighted. Why? Because these types of works generally fall under patent law. In other words, you’d like be better off in filing for a patent.
  • Works that cannot or have not been put into a fixed tangible medium. For example, you likely could not copyright a poem you write in the sand next to the beach because the ocean water will wash it away. Or you could not copyright a speech that no one recorded or wrote down. The speech would actually have to be written down on paper, on a computer, or recorded on some kind of device like a movie camera, audio recorder, etc.
  • Anything that is not an "original work" of authorship. What does this mean? Well, you cannot copyright such things as weights, common lists, standard calendars, generic charts, etc. Why? Because the work must be an original work created by the author.
Next, we’ll go over copyright questions 4 – 6.