Can I Copyright My Brand Name?

“I think copyright is moral, proper. I think a creator has the right to control the disposition of his or her works - I actually believe that the financial issue is less important than the integrity of the work, the attribution, that kind of stuff."

- Esther Dyson-

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Copyright for your Brand Name!

Brand name combined of a visual representation or a recognizable Logo reflects the product or service a company delivers and it also perfectly exhibits your company’s niche and personality. This should be a unique piece of art to distinguish your product or service from your competitors. Nevertheless, many intruders are keen in forging successful Brand names to divert consumers into their products. Companies who wanted radical success within one night and such cases often led to open discussions of intellectual assets, always imitated many successful companies.

As your brand name and logo depict your business, applying for a registration of copyright and Trademark are vital considerations in safeguarding the identity of your brand. However, having a vivid comprehension and getting familiar with the following will help you in presenting your Brand name universally.

What is WIPO?

The World Intellectual Property Organization is a global forum established for shielding the intellectual property (IP) rights and this agency of the United Nations includes 192 member states in it. Under the supervision of WIPO one can protect all the exclusive and moral rights relating to Trademark, Copyright and Patents.

Brand name registering

It is not necessarily compulsory to register for a copyright or trademark of your company name or logo. In the United States you own a copyright or trademark as soon as your original work is published on a piece of paper. However taking an extra step and registering them can support you in giving additional protection to your piece of work and it also prevents someone else using your brand name or logo for a similar business. Further if you plan to expand your business globally it will be a wise choice to register.

Brand name Copyrighted or Trademarked?

A trademark can be a combination of a Word, Motto, Design or a Symbol that is used to differentiate a product of yours from the others who are in the similar line of business. Thus, A trademark can be applied for a business or brand name, logo, emblem, design and whatsoever that specifically contributes to your brand. The registration of a trademark notifies others that this is your sole property and you have the exclusive rights in using the company product name and logo.

Unfortunately, a trademark fails to epitomize the colours and design of a brand name or a logo and it also does not protect against illegal copying of creativity. This only justifies mere cases of company mark and in order to protect your original artistic work you should register your brand name under copyrights. This means if somebody is using the same artwork it cannot be termed as a Trademark infringement rather than a Copyright infringement.

Copyright means….

Copyright protects original literary works that are stated in physical medium and the companies are capable of copyrighting audio, video, reports or any original piece of art that highlights their brand or product. As discussed, another noteworthy factor to be considered is every work is officially copyrighted at the instant it is created and registering it would further assure its protection against unlawful copying as you hold the required documentation to attest your eligibility of ownership to it.

When a competitor attempts to mimic your original creation, similar to your brand name, which is your own intellectual property you can sue them for doing so. But legal guidance can only be sought unless it is registered. When you own a registered copyright you get more control of how your intellectual asset is being used on branding the product and it also prevents other businesses or people from imitating your brand name as you have gained your privilege by copyrighting it.

Eligibility of a Brand name for copyrights

This can be very puzzling! As to apply for a copyright your brand name needs the required level of originality and creativity in order to count it as copyrightable. So, many simple brand names are not copyrightable. If your brand name is a bit more attractive and artistic you can easily get its copyrights registered.

The importance of filing a Copyright

  • To claim ownership and save your original work from plagiarism.
  • To control copying and circulation of your brand name.
  • To gain the capability to legally protect your brand name copyright.

How can you identify whether a Brand name is copyrighted?

Prior to the registration of a Brand name it is highly recommended to carry out a search as to measure the availability of a Brand name copyright. You can gather information from,

  • United States copyright office.
  • The United States patent and trademark office.
  • Trademark electronic search system

Steps involved in registering your Brand name for copyright.

The registration process of a brand name varies from country to country and you should obtain a thorough understanding of the procedures in your country and globe in order to safeguard your intellectual property from  infringement.

In the USA

  1. Browse the website of the United States Copyright Office.
  2. When you access the United States Copyright Office website, click on the Electronic registration system link (eCO Online Registration) and fill the form given.
  3. Then upload your logo and pay the mentioned registration fee.

In Australia

There is no particular Copyright registration system in Australia but one can get the guidance of the following.

  1. Australian Copyright Council
  2. Australian Government IP website 

In the UK

  1. Intellectual property office of United kingdom

Global Organizations

Your work can be protected in other countries through international agreements, such as,

  1. Berne convention
  2. European Union:  European Union Intellectual Property Office 

When to use the © symbol?

As copyrights are secured from the time the work is created, you are allowed to use the © symbol from the time the artwork is distributed. Whereas, the work is offered superior protection once it is registered with the Copyright Office of a country.

How long does copyright protection last?

A work is given validity till lasting of the author’s life, plus an additional 70 years following the author’s death. When considering joint works the ownership lasts for 70 years following the last surviving Author’s death. For works made for hire, and for the nameless and bogus works (except the author’s real identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the extent of copyright will be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whatsoever is shorter. If one applies for copyright through the Berne convention only 50 years will be granted.

The Benefits of Copyrighting can be,

  • You are granted exclusive rights of the intellectual property you own.
  • Your Brand name is protected against others who willing imitate your brand name.
  • The original idea and creativity of your brand name is secured.

How can you sue a Copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement refers to illegal copying of a registered work without the permission of the copyright owner and here are some  simple steps you can follow in such cases,

  1. First and foremost,  collect evidence of the infringement as much as possible using web and printed materials as you will have to produce documentation at the trial.
  2. Next, you should prove that the imitator had access to your brand name either from one of the following techniques.
    • The imitator may have heard or seen your work.
    • A person may have seen the imitator observing your artwork or exhibit that the suspected infringer could have found your work by browsing the Internet.
  3. Then mark the dates of infringement.
  4. Document the loss of income as violation has cost you money you have to carefully document how far it has affected.
  5. Finally  hire an experienced lawyer to file the case.

Real cases of Copyright infringement

Many artistic works have always stolen the eyes of imposters and these kind of cases can be enormously found throughout the industrial  history.

Grumpy cat Vs. Grumpy cat Coffee

Grumpy cat Vs. Grumpy cat Coffee

The constantly angry kitty, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, had been awarded $710,000 in a copyright infringement case against a beverage company.

Gucci Vs. Guess

Gucci charged Guess for imitating a diamond-patterned G logo that was printed in clothing of both the brands. This combat led Gucci to win the case successfully in the year 2012 and the courts in the US ordered Guess to pay $4.7 million in 2013. However, Guess won a countercharge in Italy and the court-approved Guess’s appeals to abolish three of Gucci’s registered trademarks.

Gucci Vs. Guess

Apple Corps vs Apple Inc.

The Beatles innovated the name “Apple” eight years before Steve Jobs introduced his Company Apple Inc. and this dispute of suing lasted many years where ultimately Steve Job’s Apple Inc. paid the Beatles’ Apple Corps a cash defrayal and vowed to stay away from the music business.

Apple Corps vs Apple Inc.

But when the Apple Inc. introduce iTunes, the battle initiated again and a payment was given to the “Beatles” after Apple Inc. decided to purchase the Apple Corps’ trademark rights.

Jack Daniel’s vs Patrick Wensink

Now, this is a remarkable case that was resolved without a tussle of a Lawsuit. Patrick Wensink published a book, which had a dead ringer on its cover page and this was Jack Daniel’s famous branding trademark design.

Jack Daniel’s vs Patrick Wensink

The famed company, Jack Daniel’s sent a letter to Wensink, recommending him on replacing his cover and as a mark of appreciation and generosity, the company even thought of contributing financially to design the new cover. Being extremely polite, Jack Daniel’s did not even ask for the book to be taken off the stores and this plea made Patrick Wensink expose the letter on his website, after which many positive praises were won by Jack Daniel’s.

To conclude, your Brand name is the backbone of your business and this intellectual property represents your company reputation locally and internationally. Registering it as a Trademark can protect the brand name but there are some limitations that can be overcome by claiming your Copyrights. But again this is tricky as to apply for a Brand name Copyright your Brand name should possess the required level of creativity and originality.