Copyright vs. Trademark: What You Need to Know

Dive into the key differences between trademarks and copyrights, and learn how to effectively protect your business’s intellectual property. Explore the unique purposes, benefits, and procedures for each form of protection.

Excellent 4.8 out of 5 stars 16,083 reviews

Start Your Business

As a business owner, understanding the importance of protecting your intellectual property is crucial. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between trademarks and copyrights, and how each form of protection can safeguard your business’s unique assets. To understand the distinction between trademark vs copyright, we’ll examine the purpose, examples, and benefits of each.


What does a trademark protect?

A trademark is a recognizable sign, symbol, design, or expression that identifies and distinguishes the products or services of a particular company from those of others. It helps prevent confusion in the marketplace by enabling consumers to easily recognize the source of a product or service.

Purpose of Trademarks

The primary purpose of a trademark is to protect brand identity, ensuring that consumers can associate a specific product or service with a particular company. This protection helps build brand recognition and trust, which is vital to the success of many businesses.

Examples of Trademarks

Trademarks can include logos, company names, slogans, and even distinctive product packaging designs. Some well-known examples of trademarks include the Nike “swoosh” logo, Apple’s apple symbol, and McDonald’s golden arches.

How to Obtain a Trademark

To obtain a trademark, you must first conduct a thorough search to ensure that your desired mark is unique and not already in use. Once you’ve verified its uniqueness, you can file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or the relevant state agency, depending on whether you seek federal or state protection.

Federal vs. State Trademarks

Federal trademarks offer protection across the entire United States, while state trademarks provide protection only within the state where they are registered. Federal trademarks are generally more comprehensive, but state trademarks may be appropriate for businesses operating solely within a specific state. State trademarks are generally easier, quicker, and less expensive to obtain than federal trademarks.

Benefits of Having a Trademark

The benefits of having a trademark include exclusive rights to use the mark, legal protection against infringement, and the ability to build brand recognition and consumer trust.


Purpose of Copyrights

Copyrights protect original works of authorship, such as literary, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. The purpose of copyright is to grant creators exclusive rights to their work, allowing them to control its use, distribution, and reproduction.

Examples of Copyrighted Works

Examples of copyrighted works include books, songs, paintings, photographs, movies, software, and architectural designs.

How to Get a Copyright

In the United States, copyright protection is automatically granted as soon as a work is created and fixed in a tangible form. However, registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office can provide additional benefits, such as the ability to sue for copyright infringement and claim statutory damages.

Benefits of Having a Copyright

The benefits of having a copyright include exclusive control over the use, distribution, and reproduction of your work, as well as the ability to license or transfer your rights to others.

What is the difference between trademark and copyright?


Trademarks protect brand identifiers, such as names, logos, and slogans, while copyrights protect original works of authorship.


Trademark protection can last indefinitely as long as the mark remains in use and properly maintained. Copyright protection typically lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.


Trademark infringement occurs when another party uses a similar mark that could cause confusion among consumers. Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses, distributes, or reproduces a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder.


In cases of trademark infringement, the trademark owner can seek monetary damages, an injunction to stop the unauthorized use, and potentially the destruction of infringing items. In cases of copyright infringement, the copyright holder can seek monetary damages, an injunction, and potentially the impounding and destruction of infringing copies.

Copyrights vs. Trademarks: Recap

Understanding the differences between trademarks and copyrights is essential for protecting your business’s intellectual property. Trademarks safeguard brand identifiers, while copyrights protect original works of authorship. Each form of protection offers specific benefits and serves a unique purpose. By securing the appropriate protections for your business assets, you can prevent unauthorized use, maintain control over your work, and foster growth and success.

We can help!

While we can’t help you with trademarks or copyrights, our LLC formation and other services can help you start your business today, providing all the support needed to hit the ground running. With our easy-to-use platform, you can focus on growing your business while we handle the red tape. Let ZenBusiness be your partner in building a strong foundation for your business’s future success.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

Trademark vs. Copyright FAQs

  • A logo is typically trademarked, as it serves as a distinctive brand identifier for products or services, helping consumers recognize the source of the product or service.

  • A name should be trademarked if it represents a brand, product, or service, as trademarks protect brand identifiers and prevent confusion in the marketplace.

  • Copyrights and trademarks protect different aspects of intellectual property. While a trademark protects brand identifiers, a copyright protects original works of authorship. Depending on the nature of your assets, you may need both protections.

  • Neither protection is inherently stronger than the other. Trademarks and copyrights serve different purposes and protect different types of intellectual property. The strength of protection depends on the specific needs of your business and the assets you wish to safeguard.

Start a Business in Your State

Popular States for Starting a Small Business