A common source of confusion for many company owners and marketers is the world of copyrights and trademarks. While I’ll never claim to be an attorney or an expert on intellectual property, working in the advertising and marketing industry for many years has given me a good practical education in these legal methods for protecting your ownership of intellectual property.

Many people use the terms copyright and trademark interchangeably, but they are two very different forms of protection. A trademark protects the trade name of business, a graphic symbol of that business such as a logo, a particular design, or a phrase used to promote and distinguish the business. A trademark that’s been registered with the Library of Congress should carry the registered trademark symbol, which is an R in a circle. In advertising and design that symbol is often referred to as an r-ball.


A copyright is a form of protection for works of authorship. That includes everything from the copy in a print ad, to a full-length novel, to a motion picture, to a song, to software. A copyright can’t protect the idea behind an article or a musical composition, but it can protect the article or composition itself. The law grants “creators” a statutory copyright when they create something and place notice of copyright on it. To obtain full legal protection, they can register their copyright with the Library of Congress. Copyrights are normally noted with a C in a circle. The normal format is ©2014 Scott Flood, using the copyright symbol (or the word “copyright”), the year of creation, and the name of the creator or copyright owner. Putting the items in different order may not provide the same protection.


One of the biggest examples of confusion comes up when a company develops a new slogan or tagline for a project or for it’s way of doing business. Management wants to ensure that nobody steals the idea, so they’ll say, “We need to copyright that!” But a copyright won’t protect a slogan or tagline. A trademark will.


Intellectual property is becoming more complex with each passing year, so if your company has a vested interest in protecting its trademarks and copyrights, it would probably be a wise investment to establish a relationship with an attorney who specializes in this type of protection.

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