Protect Against Infringement by Registering Your Trademark

Trademarks protect certain types of intellectual property. Like other intellectual property rights, trademark protection incentivizes innovation by preserving the unique way in which a product is associated with its producer. This link is often referred to as “branding.”  It allows us to identify products produced by a particular person or company.

What do trademarks protect?

An individual trademark may protect only one small element of a particular product, service, or company brand. “Trademark” is a general term applied to marks associated with a good or service meant for sale. This means they can take many different forms, including phrases, slogans, symbols, logos, and designs. The person or organization who owns the trademark has the exclusive right to use that particular mark, logo, or design to distinguishes their product(s) from those of their competitors.

A quick way to understand trademarks rights is to consider the products you use.

The computer or phone you are using likely has a distinguishing design or logo. This logo makes it easy to know you are using a product from a particular company that you presumably trust for their quality. If you discovered your device was not in fact produced by the company associated with the logo on its cover, you may understandably feel deceived. The company who owns the logo may have greater cause for concern, however, as you likely intended to purchase a product from them and instead purchased a lower quality counterfeit from a competitor. Trademark rights give the logo’s producer the ability to seek legal action against anyone who uses the logo without permission.

Trademark ownership

When someone produces a new design and ties it to their product, the default rule is that the producer has the right to claim ownership over that design. The form and originality of the design determine whether the link is unique enough to be protectable by trademark. This is important because any person or organization who owns a trademark has the exclusive right to use that design element. Nevertheless, the automatic trademark that arises when a producer creates a new design element attached to a service or product is not fully protected unless the owner registers the trademark with the federal government.

Trademark rights have a limited reach unless you register your trademark.

Trademarks are automatically tied to their original producer in the eyes of the law. However, this default ownership does not fully protect against infringement. If a dispute arises the producer would have to prove ownership over that design and prove that the infringing party knew the producer owned the exclusive right to use the protected design. By completing a trademark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the producer puts the United States on notice regarding who created that design. In turn, the registrant is given top priority and nationwide reach of ownership claims. This also prevents potential infringers from pleading ignorance in defense of an infringement claim. Registration greatly enhances the value of a trademark because the owner can more easily enforce its rights.

Trademarks are a useful tool to ensure that design elements are exclusively associated with a particular product, service, or company brand. Producers who want maximum protection against trademark infringement should consult with an attorney regarding the steps necessary to register their trademark. 

Registering Your Copyright is The Best Way to Protect Against Infringement

Copyright laws protect a type of intellectual property referred to as “original works of authorship.”  These include literary, musical, choreographic, architectural, and many more kinds of works. Copyright laws derive from Congress’ Constitutional power to ensure authors can secure exclusive rights to copy and profit from their original creations. By default, the author of an original work owns the copyright to that work. However, this default ownership cannot provide the same protection as a copyright registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. In this post we will discuss why registering your copyright with the federal government is an important step to protect your creations.

Most of the content we consume is protected by Copyright laws.

Consider your daily media consumption: The music you enjoy, the TV you watch, and the books you read are most likely protected by copyright laws (exceptions being works in the public domain.) Therefore, if someone decided to make copies of that protected content and distribute them, they would be infringing on the owner’s copyright. Unfortunately, despite owning the work, there is not much the original creator can do about this if she has not registered her copyright with the federal government. This is because a copyright must be registered before the owner can file a lawsuit for copyright infringement.  

Copyright registration grants the protections most important to creators.

Along with the right to sue for copyright infringement, registration gives owners more protection for their creations. Timely registrants can sue for statutory damages. This means damages are automatic and removes the requirement that the owner present evidence proving how and how much they were harmed by the copyright infringement. They can also sue for the attorneys fees they incur in enforcing the copyright. Additionally, any registrant can record his/her copyright registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency to help stop pirated and counterfeit versions of your work from coming into the U.S. Copyright registration offers significant legal advantages and brings peace of mind to owners.

Copyright ownership is not always clear-cut.

The first step in registering a copyright is determining who is the rightful owner. There are some cases in which the original creator of a work may not actually own the copyright. Consider a work of art commissioned by a patron. Who owns the completed work? This is just one of many examples that may cause some conflict. Because copyright laws apply to many different industries working in different mediums abiding by different standards and practices, the potential for disputes over copyright ownership is quite high. Owners who want maximum protection against copyright infringement should consult with an attorney regarding the steps necessary to register their copyright.