Do you want to protect your logo and blog name with copyrights and trademarks? No matter how big or how small your site is, you can guard your brand and intellectual properties. Keep in mind that this is not a free process, you will need to pay the United States Copyright Office a small sum. However, most find the price very reasonable.
The process is not instant, this can take anywhere from 2-18 months, which is highly dependent on whether you have legal help or do it yourself. This is something that you should consider filing immediately when you start a website. Today, I will walk you through the process of filing a Copyright and Trademark in the United States.
Why Do You Need a Copyright or Trademark Filed
Not every website needs them. For example, if you plan on running a small website or blog and don’t plan on expanding, your content is already protected. Even without filing for a copyright or trademark your intellectual property is still protected in the United States. On the other hand, if you plan on expanding your website and do business internationally, you need to file for these protections now.
Copyrights and Trademarks give you the exclusive right to decide who uses your intellectual property. Any use of your property without your consent can have legal repercussions. Of course, following through to defend your property can cost thousands in legal fees and you need to make sure your case is strong enough. Pick your battles wisely.
Copyright Vs. Trademark
A very big misconception is that copyrights and trademarks are the same things, but that couldn’t be more wrong. It is true that both protect your intellectual property from being used without your consent, but they protect different types of content in different ways. Here are simple ways to explain what each one protects:
Copyright: Any original content you create on your website will be protected. This includes images, text posts, and any other content that you create to use on your website.
Trademark: Any distinguishable mark or image that represents your brand or business. These include things like your business name, logo, symbol, mascot, or any other distinguishable mark.
Wait a minute, it sounds like copyrights can cover stuff that trademarks can. No, they do not, or at least they shouldn’t if set up correctly. Let’s look at a quick example.
Here is the GreenGeeks logo:
Here is an image to help visitors during one of our tutorials:
The logo is protected by a Trademark, while the image would be covered under Copyright since it is our original content. They are both original content for your website, but you do not get the same protection level. Some content can be shown or used under the «Fair Use» clause of Copyright law, while this is not allowed if the content is Trademark protected. Under no circumstance can the GreenGeeks logo be used without permission, but if it was just a copyright, it could be used under fair use.
The difference between the two is quite significant. Let’s take a look at how to begin filing for each one.
Filing For a Trademark
Before you begin applying for a trademark, take a minute to make sure the content can be trademarked. For example, if you are trademarking your company name, that name has to be original. It has to be unique, not already trademarked, and certainly not generic. If you had a burger shop and name it «The Burger Shop» or something else very generic, you probably don’t have a good chance of that going through. However, you can definitely trademark your logo if it’s unique enough.
After you’re sure you’re not wasting time and money on your trademark, its time to make sure the trademark is available. Even if you have never heard the name spoken or heard in any form of media, it may still be trademarked. Thankfully, the trademark office gives you the tools needed.
Visit the official United States Trademark Office website. Locate and click on the «Search TESS» button. This will allow you to search the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) database to see if it is filed.
Once you have used the TESS to make sure that the trademark has not been filed and are confident it is unique enough, you’re ready to file. Visit the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) page and follow their detailed instructions on filing your trademark in the United States.
Filing For a Copyright
Filing a Copyright is different from a Trademark and takes place on a different website which is very easy to navigate and use, but you need to understand what category you should file under. Let’s say you want to copyright a particular image on your website, you need to click on the Visual Arts section. On the other hand, maybe you want your website’s post content or blog protected, that would be under the Other Digital Content category. Make sure you’re filing the right content in the right category or you could be wasting time and money.
Visit the United States Copyright Office’s website and click on the Register option.
Select the category that best matches your content.
Follow the instructions and links provided to continue filing in the United States.
Protect Your Content
Once you successfully create a copyright or trademark, you’re just beginning. Now that you have all of the legal rights associated with your protection, you need to make sure you are protecting your content. Make sure you are including the trademark symbol and clearly indicate that your content is protected by copyright or trademark law. If you find someone using your content you need to take action.
Your first option is to take legal action, but honestly, this should be a last resort. This can be extremely expensive and is not a likely option for most websites. The other option is to send a message to whoever is infringing your copyright or trademark indicating they are using your content without permission and they need to stop or face legal consequences. It is expensive for both sides and it might be completely unintentional.
Have you filed a copyright, trademark, or both? Why have you felt the need to file one?