You’ve spent a good amount of time crafting your brand – creating a fun logo, finding a catchy name, and maybe designing some key visuals. Well done, that’s great news. Getting these elements right is crucial for your success.
Here comes the bad news – someone may try to steal them. If that happens, you need to be able to take legal action to protect your intellectual property against unlicensed copying. Copyright can make sure your hard work doesn’t go to waste.
This article will show you how to copyright a logo in 5 easy steps.
What Is a Copyright?
Copyrighting protects an original fixed work that fits a baseline of creativity. A fixed work means that it is perceivable in a tangible medium, e.g., you’ve created a logo design on paper or saved it digitally.
Note: A copyright applies automatically upon creation, but it doesn’t yet legally protect the work from being copied. Copyright registration will do that and safeguard you from anyone who tries to claim false ownership over your creative intellectual property.
There are some assets copyright protection doesn’t cover. One of them is the name of your online brand, and that’s where trademark registration comes in. We’ll cover that further in this article.
Benefits of Having a Copyright Registration:
Why Is It Important to Copyright Your eCommerce Store Logo?
The eCommerce industry is growing rapidly and showing no signs of stopping. It’s a great time to start a small Etsy side hustle or a branded storefront, but it also means you’ve got to look out for more competition.
Before getting started with copyright law, this is a great opportunity to prepare your business legally: do you need a business license to sell on Etsy or other eCommerce sales channels?
While copyright protection isn’t required by law, we highly encourage you to use its benefits, especially if you’re just starting out as a small business. You want to protect your amazing ideas against people with bad intentions as much as possible.
For example, you’ve made a logo design that captures your brand’s identity, but you haven’t registered a copyright. The automatic copyright assumes you are the original author, but if others make identical or similar logos and register them first, you can’t press any charges.
How to Copyright a Logo?
There are a couple of things to do before you mail a paper application to the copyright office or submit one online:
We recommend you use the United States Copyright Office online application form as it will significantly save your time and money. Here’s how you do it:
1. Log in to the Copyright Registration System
2. Find the Copyright Application Form
3. Fill in the Copyright Application Form
4. Pay the Registration Fee
5. Check Your Email For Confirmation
After filling out the application form and paying the fee, you should receive a confirmation email of successful registration. Don’t be scared if you have to go back and forth before that happens. Some things might need clarification, and that’s okay.
Congratulations. Hopefully, by now, you’ve successfully registered a copyright for your logo design. Let’s now take a look at how you can secure your brand name and why you need a trademark to do it.
Trademark vs Copyright: What Is the Difference?
Both trademark and copyright are forms of intellectual property protection. The difference between them lies in the types of assets they legally cover.
While copyright secures original works that are more artistic by nature, trademark protects elements that make up your brand identity and set you apart from other businesses, like the name of your company, phrases, slogans, or a combination of words and design.
Assets you can protect under copyright law:
Assets you can protect under trademark laws:
Trademark registration is more complex and takes more time, but it’s the only safety measure that fully covers your rights to these brand assets.
You can register a federal or state trademark at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Trademark and Copyright Symbols
You can recognize which works are protected by copyright or trademark with these symbols.
'C' inside a circle is the general copyright symbol. The word “Copyright” or abbreviation “Copr.” are also applicable.
'R' inside a circle represents a registered trademark.
The “™” symbol applies to assets that are currently going through the process of trademark registration.
You can use the copyright symbol © even if you haven’t registered your work. Remember, though, that it will not legally protect you from infringement.
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Enforcing Your Copyright and Trademark Rights
After the registration process is over, the ball is in your court to keep an eye out for any cases of copyright or trademark infringement and take legal action, if necessary.
If someone is copying your work, there are multiple ways you can address that situation. Always make sure you own the copyright or trademark. If you registered them before the infringement, legally, your copyright is valid. If not, you’ll have to prove the damages you want to retrieve.
Start by reaching out to the person you suspect copied or redistributed your work without permission through a formal email and explain the situation. It could be an innocent mistake you both can resolve in a relaxed manner.
What to Do in Case of Copyright Infringement?
- Contact the person and see if you can resolve this informally. If it’s someone you know, you could do this over a cup of coffee. If it’s a stranger – send them a formal email. If it’s a business – contact the company owner.
- If that doesn’t work, hire an attorney and file a lawsuit in federal court. It will take more time and money, so make sure the result outweighs the legal costs.
- Together with your attorney, you will contact the infringer, gather all necessary evidence of copyright infringement, and proceed to trial.
- The outcome depends on each situation. The court can stop the infringer from continued violation of the law. You might also receive reimbursement of any damages and attorney fees.
What to Do in Case of Trademark Infringement?
- Make sure you own the trademark.
- Send a cease and desist letter to the person or business who’s infringing your trademark. You can ask an attorney to help you. Usually, you will come to a mutual agreement with the violator since infringement lawsuits are costly for both parties.
- If you can’t come to an agreement, you can file a lawsuit. Depending on the type of trademark you hold, the issue will be resolved in either federal or state court.
What Are the Things You Can Not Copyright?
After the registration process is over, the ball is in your court to keep an eye out for any cases of copyright or trademark infringement and take
Let’s look at some assets the copyright law doesn’t cover. Don’t fear – many of these are protected by other intellectual properties like trademarks or patents.
Works that are commonly known by everyone without an original author, such as:
Remember, original fixed work is perceivable and tangible. For example, if you have five great ideas for your logo design, they can’t be copyrighted until you draw them on a piece of paper or save them digitally on your computer.
Ideas, Methods, and Systems
Copyright law does not protect these three categories because ideas and inventions are subjected to patent law.
Names, Titles, and Slogans
When you come up with the catchiest brand slogan in history, please don’t waste your time researching how to copyright it. Go straight to the trademark office.
For example, you cannot copyright the phrase “No pain, no gain.” because it’s a saying everyone knows.
Note: We highly recommend you protect these assets under trademark law to secure your place in a particular niche against other competition.
The registration fee can differ depending on your location and the type of original work in question. In the United States, you can submit a logo copyright claim through online registration from $45 to $65. Making a trip to the copyright office will be more expensive – starting from $125.
Note: Additional costs may occur, depending on your circumstances.
If you choose to trademark your logo, the application costs will also depend on many factors – where you submit the form (online or at a trademark office), what filing option you choose, plus the number and type of original works you want to cover.
For example, you can choose to trademark your logo in-state. The costs are cheaper, but you’re only covered within the boundaries of that state. A federal trademark gives you national protection.
We recommend using the Trademark Electronic Application System to save money. The starting price of trademark registration in TEAS is $250.
If you register for copyright ownership through the United States Copyright Office, the average processing time for online applications:
- 1.6 months without additional correspondence
- 3.6 months with additional correspondence
Make sure you stay up to date on current waiting periods as they can change depending on the volume of claims the copyright office has to handle.
The trademark process takes longer because it involves more intricate steps. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) estimates an average processing time from 12 to 18 months.
Copyright automatically applies to any original logo after you’ve designed and fixed it. A fixed logo means it’s tangible or perceivable in physical or digital form. This is free, but remember that only a registered copyright legally protects you against copyright infringement.
Unregistered copyright does assume that the original work is yours. Still, if someone else made an identical logo for their business and registered it under copyright law, you cannot file charges against them in court.
We recommend that you evaluate the initial costs of registering a copyright against the potential court fees and business losses a stolen logo can cause.
While copyright covers original assets like logos, designs, and other artistic works, it doesn’t legally protect a company name, any titles, and taglines.
To keep your name and brand identity safe, we encourage you to consider trademark protection.
While most original works are subject to copyright protection, some assets fall into the bucket of exceptions.
- Logos that are too simple and don’t meet the baseline requirements for creativity.
- Business name, product titles and descriptions, catchy slogans, and taglines.
- Ideas, methods, systems, and inventions.
- Commonly-known information
- Data and facts
Note: Currently, there is no standard for the baseline creativity of a logo. Each court might have its own interpretation of what that means – some count the number of graphic elements in a logo, and some look at the creativity subjectively.
To protect a company name or a funky new slogan you just came up with, look into a federal registration of a trademark.
Is it worth registering a copyright for your logo?
Registering a copyright saves you countless hours and money if someone else copies your work on purpose or accidentally. It’s not all about money, of course. When you own the rights to your logo, your brand representation is secure because no one else can try to look like you.
The application process is a bit complex but very time-saving in the future, and if you follow the five steps we’ve covered in this article, you’ll do it in no time.
To sum up:
- Log in to the copyright registration system
- Find the copyright application form
- Pay the copyright registration fee
- Check email for confirmation
Go on, claim ownership over your intellectual property, secure that fantastic logo, and sleep soundly knowing that if someone tries to steal it, you can win the battle.
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