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What is a poor man’s copyright/trademark?

Let’s first distinguish and define what a trademark is versus what copyright is.

A copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship (book, song, movie). The original work must be expressed in a tangible medium. In other words, for creative work to be copyrighted, it must be reduced to writing, put on film, etc.

A trademark is a word, phrase symbol, or design (mark) that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods, phrase, symbol, or design mark. The “source identifier” or trademark, distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

Is taking your creative work, reducing it to writing, and sending it to yourself in the mail secure a copyright in the work? Or is mailing the logo of your business to yourself give you a trademark?

Unfortunately, no. mailing yourself a copy of your creative work or company logo does not secure any legal rights or protection in that work. It is not a substitute for proper registration of a copyright. This myth has circulated for years with artists and other creatives. Mailing yourself a copy of your logo is also not a substitute for filing for registration of your logo or other source identifiers.

The best way to secure legal rights for a creative work you want to copyright is to file to register the work with the US Copyright. As for your trademark, file your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Both copyrights and trademarks give the owner federal protection of their intellectual property, meaning that their rights can be enforced in any state in the United States.

However, all creative works that are reduced to writing are copyrighted, but it is still advisable to register your creative work with the U.S. Copyright Office in the event someone uses your creative work without your permission. Registering the work is the only way to take advantage of the statutory damages rule that allows monetary compensation if your work is used without your authorization. Registration also gives the owner of the copyright nearly indisputable proof that you are the owner of the copyrighted work.

For your trademark, prior to building your brand, it is advisable that you hire an experienced attorney to do a search to ensure that your use of the word, logo, or phrase is eligible for trademark protection. It is important that a proper search is done to provide the reasonable assurance that your trademark does not infringe on another person or company’s use of the same or similar mark.

Consulting with an attorney may save you time, money, or a forced rebrand if another company takes legal action against you for possible trademark infringement.

For more information, contact Littlejohn Law Offices to schedule an appointment today!