In the world of intellectual property, it is important for every person or business to know their rights. Not knowing whether your intellectual property rights are being encroached upon, either purposefully or unintentionally, can serve to hurt the goodwill you have built with the community and your clients. Arkansas is home to business owners, entrepreneurs, and many others who benefit from the protections of trademark and copyright laws every day, but may not know the full extent of those protections. The intellectual property infringement attorneys at Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP are available to inform you of all you need to know about trademark and copyright laws in Arkansas. For a free consultation, contact our Fayetteville intellectual property lawyers today.

Trademarks vs. Service Marks: What is the Difference?

A trademark, also known as a service mark, can be described as a word, a name, a symbol or a combination of those things which identifies the source of goods or services. Classic examples of trademarks that are recognized nationwide and even internationally are:

  • The McDonald’s golden arches
  • The Walt Disney castle (and later, the stylized “D” logo)
  • The half-bitten apple logo of Apple
  • Nike’s swoosh/checkmark
  • Audi’s four interwoven rings

A service mark is slightly different from a trademark in that is generally used by companies or individuals that provide a particular service. Examples of service marks include:

  • Walmart
  • McDonald’s
  • Target
  • Amazon
  • MGM’s lion roar sound

The reason that McDonald’s can be a trademark and a service mark is because McDonald’s offers both goods and services. Trademarks are exclusively used to denote goods, while service marks are exclusively used to denote services, which is why some companies that provide both goods and services apply for both. Trademarks and service marks are known as “intellectual property” (IP), because they essentially have no physical form. They are made up of ideas, images, and even sounds.

Any person, partnership, corporation, or other entity can apply to register for a trademark or service mark. However, prior to registering your trademark or service mark, it is important that you perform a search to ensure that what you want to register is not already in use by another individual or company. If what you are trying to register is too similar to another business – so much so that it will likely confuse consumers as to who owns the trademark – your trademark registration will be denied. As long as the business continues running, the trademark or service mark can be renewed indefinitely.

How Copyright Differs from Trademark

The definition of a copyright is described by the federal government as a “form of protection grounded in the U.S. constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression … which covers both published and unpublished works.” To break that down, copyright law protects original content produced by individuals or corporations at the moment it is produced in a form that can be perceived, whether directly or with the aid of a device. Copyright law protects a variety of works of “authorship” under the categories of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as:

  • Films
  • Novels
  • Songs
  • Computer software
  • Architecture

Unlike trademarks or service marks, a copyright does not protect:

  • Facts
  • Ideas
  • Systems
  • Methods of operation
  • Names, titles, or short phrases

Trademark law often operates where copyright law cannot. As mentioned above, trademark law can protect company slogans like Ford’s “Like a Rock” or Nike’s “Just Do It.”

Additionally, unlike trademark law, a copyright does not have to be registered in order to receive copyright protection. However, if an individual or corporation seeks to bring a lawsuit for infringement of their copyright, they must register with the United States Copyright Office.

If you frequently create original works of content which fall under copyright protection, there are more considerations you should be aware of. For instance, if you work for a company and are generating content for that company, whether it be music or literature, the copyrights to that content belong to the company. If you are doing freelance work for a company, you generally own the rights to the content you create, unless you sign your rights away to that company. The Nike swoosh logo was created by a graphic design student who signed her rights away for $35 at the time. It is important to know the value of what you are creating for someone else.

With the proliferation of the internet, it has become much easier for individuals to snag the work of others and pass it off as their own. This has made it much harder for content creators to protect their original works from intellectual property infringement. However, the fact that copyrights in the U.S. are also acknowledged and protected abroad in many other countries aids in the ability of an individual or business to protect infringement of their work.

Should I Get a Trademark or Copyright?

When looking at whether you or your company could benefit from trademark or copyright law protections, the answer is that most people and businesses prefer to use a mix of both. Trademarks and copyrights serve to protect individuals and companies in different areas of intellectual property. Trademark laws are going to keep someone from swiping a fancy logo you may have taken days or weeks creating, while a copyright is going to stop someone from stealing an article you wrote on a hot topic in the world today.

To ensure you know everything you need to know about trademark and copyright protections in Arkansas, and to learn how you should approach a dispute, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced intellectual property law attorney. It could mean the difference between a successful well-known business, and one which has been taken advantage of by intellectual property pirates.

Fayetteville, AR Intellectual Property Attorneys Offering Free Consultations

If you wish to know more about trademarks and copyrights in Arkansas, or your business has been affected by infringement from other parties, talk to an attorney as soon as feasible. The Fayetteville intellectual property theft attorneys at Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP are happy to consult with you in matters concerning IP law. Our attorneys have years of experience concerning vast areas of trademark and copyright law which can be of great aid to you. For a free consultation, contact our law offices right away at (479) 439-9840.