Intellectual Property Law: Understanding the Difference Between Copyrights and Trademarks

Intellectual property law can be convoluted and confusing, but also essential to your company’s success. We’d all love to believe that our competitors will play fairly or that our own employees will always be loyal. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that you have to expect and prepare for the worst in people.

You work hard to be innovative and creative. You provide a product or a service that people enjoy. You deserve to be the one who profits from your own good ideas.

Copyrights and trademarks can both help you make sure your intellectual property remains your own property, but there is a a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about the difference between the two. These two intellectual property protections are both issued by the federal government but they have very distinct situations for which they can and should be utilized.

In this blog, we’ll help you better understand the differences between copyrights and trademarks.


Copyright protection is used to make sure creative intellectual property is not illegally reproduced or copied. If you have produced an original piece of work, then a copyright will ensure that you maintain the sole rights to the content you created. This covers a broad range of subjects that can include books, photos, architectural plans, scripts, and web content.

Copyrights will provide intellectual property protection for the creator of the work for his or her entire lifetime, plus another 70 years after his or her death. The copyright holder will have full control over how their work is reproduced or distributed. The copyright will never have to be renewed and there are no maintenance fees to preserve the protection. They are issued by the US Copyright Office.


Trademarks, on the other hand, are issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office and they protect an entirely different form of intellectual property than the creative, original works that fall under copyrights. A trademark allows a business to protect its rights to any names, symbols, or logos that the business uses to represent the goods or services it provides. Trademarks are used to distinguish companies and what they offer, as well as protect businesses from illegal reproduction of their unique commodities.

As opposed to a copyright, trademarks only last 10 years at a time, but they can be renewed indefinitely every decade. Also unlike a copyright, there are maintenance fees involved in preserving trademarks.

Both trademarks and copyrights are only enforceable within the United States, but they can prevent the importation of products that infringe on the protected intellectual property.

They may have key differences, but these intellectual property protections are both essential for making sure your goods and your ideas remain yours. Integrated General Counsel can help you protect the valuable intellectual property that your business has created, so give us a call to discuss your needs.

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