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The Overlap Between Copyrights and Trademarks

by | Nov 5, 2021 | Intellectual Property, Trademark

Is your trademark a work of art? Original and independently created? Your trademarks may be eligible for copyright registration in addition to trademark registration.

Why would you obtain both copyright and trademark registrations? Broader protection.

A work of art is copyright-protected from the moment it becomes a tangible form – if it is original, independently created by the author, and possesses sufficient creative authorship.  Copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.  

However, trademark registration lasts into infinity if the trademark registration owner takes two steps:

  • They file a Declaration of Continued Use and Incontestability between the 5th and 6th years, AND
  • They file a Renewal Notice every 10 years

Some classic examples of logos that have both copyright and trademark protection are:

The image of Tinker Bell. This cartoon fairy image is registered as a trademark in Class 18 for backpacks, book bags, coin purses, handbags, purses, luggage, tote bags, all-purpose carrying bags, umbrellas, wallets, all-purpose sport bags, gym bags, overnight bags. The Tinker Bell image also has a copyright registration.

The logo for American Airlines. The red, white, and blue airplane wing logo is registered in nine different classes of goods and services, including Class 39 for air transport of passengers, cargo, and freight. American Airlines was able to obtain a copyright registration for the logo from the U.S. Copyright Office after a protracted discussion with the US Copyright Office.

In my day-to-day practice, most of the trademarks I encounter cannot obtain copyright registrations from the US Copyright Office. But whenever I see a particularly creative trademark, I recommend that the owner attempt to obtain a copyright registration in addition to trademark registration.

Consulting, Seminars, and Books 

These realms represent another way that copyrights and trademarks may overlap.

For instance, a company may offer consulting services and seminars on real estate sales, leadership skills, or investment strategies. That company should possess a trademark registered in the Classes for consulting services and seminars.

Since the company will also publish books, handouts, workbooks, manuals, and videos that are used when providing consulting services, the content of those materials are all protected by copyright law. The owner of the company should obtain copyright registrations for their original materials before they start distributing them to clients at seminars and coaching sessions.

A company that takes the time to protect its original creations adds value to their bottom line.  Registering copyrights and trademarks allows you to prove your exclusive ownership of those assets. Do not underestimate the competitive advantage this provides.



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