Copyright vs Trademark: Understanding the Difference

Copyright vs Trademark: Understanding the Difference

Copyrights and trademarks are two types of intellectual property rights. A copyright protects literary works while a trademarks protects brand names, logos, etc.

The difference between copyright and trademark is one of the most common topics of discussion when one is learning about intellectual properties and IP rights. Every innovator or creator has certain intellectual property rights that touch upon their business. These IPRs also afford legal and financial protection to their novel creations. Once a company is formally launched as a brand, every little thing associated with it can fall under the IPR purview. The little factors such as the brand name, the font used to represent it, the jingles used to advertise the brand and so on, help customers differentiate the businesses and the products offered. Such is the power of IPRs that businesses are happy to spend millions of dollars to gain exclusive rights over their creations.

The term ‘trademark’ is used by business owners looking to set their brand apart from their competition in the market for the products or services the brand offers. On the other hand, the term copyright is widely used in the literary community of individuals such as authors, novelists, poets, lyricists, cinematographers, music producers, filmmakers and other professionals working in the creative space. While trademarks and copyrights fall under the broader umbrella of intellectual property rights, there are several points of differences that set them apart from one another. This article highlights the fundamental differences between copyrights and trademarks. Read on to find out what they are.

Copyrights versus trademark – meaning and definitionsCopyrights versus trademark – meaning and definitions

To understand the difference between copyrights and trademarks, you first need to understand the meaning and definitions of the two terms.

Definition of a Copyright

A copyright is defined as a collection of intellectual property rights that are automatically conferred upon or vested to a literary artist for creating a literary piece of work. The literary artist or the creator has the rights to create, sell, rent, or utilise their works in any capacity they deem fit, under the Copyright Act of 1957. They can also transfer the rights to reproduce their work, distribute copies of their work, and perform and display their work on various public forums.

Copyright owners can license their creations, assign them or transfer them to another individual or entity. For instance, lyricists are commissioned to write songs by filmmakers, for a fee. The lyricist can transfer the copyrights to the filmmaker or take a royalty share.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is defined as any word, symbol, phrase or design that distinguishes the source of goods offered by one brand from another. It primarily serves as a brand indicator or identifier that guides consumer behaviour, typically from the consumption point of view. The identifier can be in the form of a brand name, its logos or its slogans or the colours used by the brand. For instance, the premium shoe-brand ‘Nike’ uses a black and white colour scheme and is identified by a tick mark, along with its slogan, ‘Just Do It’.
Like with copyrights, trademarks are automatically assigned, and the owner does not need to register for it to protect their rights.

What is the difference between copyright and trademark?What is the difference between copyright and trademark?

Here are the fundamental points of differences between copyright and trademark.

    1. Copyrights vs trademarks – The laws governing the IPRsBoth copyrights and trademarks are governed under separate IPR laws in India. While the former is governed under the Copyright Act of 1957, the latter is governed under the Trademarks Act of 1999.
    2. Copyright vs trademark – The type of protection affordedThe Copyright Act protects original and creative expressions of various kinds. These include artistic works, literary works, and dramatic works and so on. Conversely, the trademark protects unique words or names that distinguish one brand from another. The most common examples of trademarks include brand names and logos and the colours, fonts and shapes used to distinguish them.
    3. Copyright vs trademark – The validity of the two IPRsA copyright is valid throughout the lifetime of the literary creator. In fact, it remains valid even after 60 years from the time of the copyright owner’s demise. In such a situation, the legal representatives of the deceased copyright owner can take legal action against copyright infringement. A trademark, on the other hand, comes with a validity period of 10 years at a time. However, the trademark owner can make the validity perpetual by renewing it every ten years.
    4. Copyright vs trademark – Security affordedAnother point of difference between copyrights and trademark revolves around the securities afforded to the two types of IPRs. As is apparent from the definitions of copyrights and trademarks, the former secures novel, creative and intellectual creations. Trademark, conversely, secures the branding under which a product or a service is sold.
    5. Copyright vs trademark – Rights applicableAs a copyright owner, you get exclusive rights over your creations, without having to file for the copyrights. You can claim your rights over your creations from the moment your work comes into existence. Just like copyrights, you can get exclusive trademark rights without having to file for your trademarks. However, if you do register for it, you can claim total rights over the said trademark. If you intend to register for a trademark, you should note that it can take anywhere from 12-18 months to do the same.

Final note: Your intellectual property, whether it is a patent, a copyright or a trademark, has the power to give you an edge over your competitors in every single field. It also enables you to gain a monopoly over your creations and paves the path to commercial growth. As an inventor, innovator or a literary creator, you should be familiar with the various Intellectual Property Rights and the laws that govern them. It is also essential to understand the differences between copyrights and trademarks, copyrights and patents, trademarks and patents, and other such permutations and combinations of intellectual Property Laws.


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