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Friday, June 22, 2007

The Differences Between Copyrights, Trademarks and Service Marks

Most people do not understand the difference between a trademark, a service
mark and a copyright, but they are actually distinct legal protections.

A trademark protects the goods that you make or sell, whereas a service
mark (SM) protects the services you provide or sell. And a copyright
protects literary, artistic, and musical works. If you want to protect your
brand name, you should use a trademark. (Copyrights don’t protect names,
titles, slogans or short phrases.)

Chances are you’ve noticed the symbols businesses use to indicate which kind
of legal protection they’ve applied for, but these are not just arbitrarily
used. The use of symbols like TM and SM are governed by local, state, or
foreign laws, which makes it essential for you to seek legal representation
while you decide which kind of protection you need and to aid you in the
application process.

Keep in mind that you can only use the federal registration symbol, or the R
enclosed within a circle, once your trade or service mark is actually
registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Even
if your application is pending, you still cannot use the registration symbol
before the mark has actually become registered. (It is not easy to guess how
long it will take for the application to be processed. In general, you will
receive a receipt, along with an application serial number, within 3 weeks of
filing and you may get a response within 6 to 7 months, but the truth is the
process could take anywhere from a year to several years)