Advances in technology in many fields, from communication to manufacturing, have made the world a more interconnected place than ever. And while this has produced many benefits for individuals and organizations, it has also triggered disadvantages. For those who make a living off of their creative works, the ease of reproducing all forms of art can make it easier to share works with the world, but it also makes them harder to steal. Meanwhile, international companies can find their reputations soiled by unauthorized imitations.
Because of the increasing prevalence of such issues, copyright law and trademark law have become increasingly important.
If you’re not familiar with the world of intellectual property law, you may wonder whether there is any difference between a copyright and a trademark. In fact, the two are quite different and cannot be used interchangeably. Although both protect intellectual property, the type of works protected and the characteristics of the protection vary.
As the name suggests, trademarks are involved in trade—that is, commerce. Trademark protection is available only for symbols, words, names, and the like that are used in commerce to indicate the source of the goods. Trademark protection prevents, for example, a person making his own cookies at home and selling them with the Oreo logo and name, thereby passing off his products as those of Oreo. Additionally, trademark protection allows you to prevent competitors from selling their goods using a mark confusingly similar to yours.
Understanding Copyright Law
Copyright protection applies to a much broader spectrum of creative works. Rather than focusing on how consumers perceive marketing messages, the law of copyright is intended to protect the rights of those who contribute to the arts. Copyright laws protect works such as music, drawings, movies, architecture, sculpture, and literary works. These laws grant the owners of the copyright—usually the author—the exclusive right to do things such as make copies or distribute the work in question.