Intellectual property can get pretty complicated, especially if you don't know where to begin. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are mentioned a lot in the media, but they aren't always explained properly. This can be a problem, since all three of those forms of intellectual property are massively impactful in the life of most people. To help you get a better understanding of how intellectual property works, here is a comparison of copyrights and trademarks:
What material does a copyright cover?
A copyright protects creative works like books, movies, music, or paintings. If you have a copyright for something that you made, then you can protect it from being reproduced or sold without your permission. A copyright also allows you to give permission to certain groups to reproduce or sell your work, which allows you to financially benefit.
What material does a trademark cover?
On the other hand, a trademark is used to protect a brand. More specifically, a trademark helps ensure brand recognition and helps prevent brand dilution. Of course, this only applies if you actually try to defend your trademark in court. If you don't defend your trademark in court and attempt to sue individuals that are infringing on your trademark, then the courts may rule that your trademark is no longer valid.
How do you acquire each option?
Getting a copyright involves filing an application and then waiting to see if your copyright is approved. The process can get a little complicated, so the help of a lawyer might be necessary, especially if you are seeking a copyright for a very profitable work.
Trademarks are much more informal and don't need to be applied for in most cases. Trademarks can be gained purely through usage and recognition, but they also require a higher standard for maintenance. If you fail to zealously protect your trademark, then your trademark could be revoked just as easily as it was granted.
How long does each option last?
Copyrights nowadays are fairly simple, with a basic copyright lasting the life of the author and then 70 more years. Older copyrights are a bit more complicated, which is why you might hear about companies with copyrights that are well over a century old, but those rules don't apply to new copyrights, so you don't need to worry about those cases too much.
On the other hand, trademarks only last as long as the trademark is actually used in commerce. In other words, once your brands ceases to exist or switches to a new trademark, your exclusive rights to that trademark will diminish or vanish entirely.
For more information about securing your creative or brand properties, contact a law firm such as Vandeventer Black LLP.