If you are selling your own products or are providing a particular service,
you most likely have a business name, plus a special design or logo associated
with your business name.
You may think either a copyright or a trademark registration will provide the
necessary protection to keep others from using your business “identity.” However,
you will need both in order to properly protect your rights.
Copyrights registered through the U.S. Copyright Office, particularly the Library
of Congress, protect works of art such as drawings, designs, and logos. The
form usually required for such protection is the Form VA (Visual Arts).
Just because you have a copyright on the artwork associated with your business
name, such as a logo, does not necessarily mean that your business name is also
protected. The federal copyright laws do not protect business names. For that
you will need to register your business name as a trademark or service mark.
Business names are protected under the federal trademark laws, and can be either
a trademark or service mark.
- A trademark usually refers to a distinct, particular mark, and appears on
a product such as a car or appliance.
- A service mark is associated with a service, such as a dry cleaning service
or maid service.
Regardless of whether the business name is a trademark or service mark, the
protection is essentially the same. The two terms are generally used interchangeably.
A business name must be properly registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office for the name and corresponding logo or artwork to be protected.
As an illustration, Bob is the leader of a rock band called The Stealthrockers.
The name “Stealthrockers” is written in a unique, fancy style, drawn by Bob
himself. If Bob obtains a federal copyright of the Stealthrockers logo, only
the artwork associated with the logo itself is protected, but not the name “Stealthrockers”.
If Bob obtains a service mark on the name “Stealthrockers”, assuming no one
else has already registered the name, he will have federal trademark protection
of the use of the name, as well as of the logo. However, Bob will not have any
copyright protection without obtaining a copyright on the artwork.
Best to Get Both
Accordingly, the best way to assure the most protection of the use of a business
name and the associated artwork is through both a federal copyright and a federal
trademark or service mark.