The United States Patent and Trademark Office is the government body in the US that oversees the registrations of trademarks. It isn’t legally required that anyone register their trademark—if you use a logo or a symbol, or even a word to distinguish your work from others, you already have a trademark, at least in your local area. But proving that you have a right to that trademark in court can be very difficult. Active federal registration of your trademark can provide a higher degree of legal protection.
Copyright is overseen by the US Copyright Office, and is available for creative things that you create. Like trademark, you don’t have to register it to have it, but you do if you want to have an easy time proving it in court! Whether it is a manuscript or a painting, what you get copyrighted must be original and in some permanent form. You cannot copyright titles, names, phrases, slogans.
This is the basic difference between trademark and copyright.
Whereas copyright protects your art, trademarks protect your name, your business name, and your brand. So, if your business name is your name and your signature is your brand, can you trademark or copyright it? You can not copyright it, but you can trademark it in order to assure you have the exclusive right in the US to use that trademark to sell your work. Banksy has done this. Bob Ross too. Do you love Bob Ross?
Even if you aren’t famous (yet), that trademark might be one of the most powerful pieces of intellectual property you can own as an artist.
Owning your mark has inherent value, according to my friend and trusted associate, Kathryn Goldman. She is an attorney who started the Creative Law Center to help other creative folks be more thoughtful about intellectual property and they build their creative businesses around stories and art.
Does this raise questions for you about trademarks and the branding for your business?
As you may know, I’m an affiliate for the Creative Law Center because these legal considerations come up during the course of my editorial business dealings with clients. Kathryn Goldman is an amazing resource for information and guidance, and I find her live webinars to be well worth my time.
This link is an affiliate link, and if you decide to join the webinar or sign up for the CLC membership (check out the benefits!) she’ll send me part of your registration fee. It won’t cost you any extra.
This Wednesday, May 4, at 1 pm eastern, the Creative Law Center is offering “Trademarks & Branding for Visual Artists.” You do not have to be a member of the Creative Law Center to attend. You’ll get an email with the Zoom link for Wednesday, May 4 at 1 p.m., EST once you sign up. You will have access to the replay for a year.
This is a live, interactive workshop using Zoom. You will be able to ask questions in real time, which is a super-cool opportunity to chat with experts.
Haven’t considered establishing a trademark? Why not?