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Copyright vs Trademark vs Patent

Copyright vs. Trademark vs. Patent

Copyright vs Trademark vs Patent

“Intellectual property” covers a wide range of business assets, such as books, screenplays, photos, movies, computer software code, inventions, and formulas. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are the main types of intellectual property. Federal law provides strong protections for the creators of original works, inventors, and licensors of IP rights, but the law is complex. In fact, people often confuse copyright, trademark, and patent because each kind of intellectual property protects creators or licensors against unauthorized use or infringement by others, but they do so in different ways. If you are involved in an intellectual property dispute, you need to have a solid understanding of what the law says with respect to copyright vs. trademark vs. patent.

To learn more about the differences between copyright law, trademark law, and patent law, keep reading this blog.

What’s the Difference Between Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents?

Intellectual property can be an extremely valuable business asset. That’s why it is important that only the rightful owner of the asset’s IP rights be allowed to exploit the intellectual property for profit, whether that involves selling it or licensing it. The three most common tools used to protect the intellectual property rights of certain types of assets are:

  1. Copyrights
  2. Trademarks
  3. Patents

Copyrights

As set forth in the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright protects original creative works like novels, songs, paintings, videos, photographs, drawings, clothing, jewelry, and even websites. Only the copyright holder may copy, sell, perform, or display the work for profit, or license the work to someone else for commercial reproduction, distribution, performance, or display.

When it comes to securing copyright ownership, the original creator of a work technically doesn’t need to do anything to acquire the copyright of that work. But there are a number of benefits only available to those who actually register their copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. For example, if someone does infringe on your copyright, you will first need to file for copyright registration before you can bring a lawsuit in federal court to enforce your copyright. Additionally, copyright registration will probably make it easier for you to back up your case in court because there will be a public record of the copyright claim: all officially copyrighted works published after 1978 are deposited with the Copyright Office and entered into an online database.

Trademarks

While copyright applies to original works of authorship, a trademark covers unique words, phrases, slogans, symbols, and designs that can be used to identify a good, product, or service. A requirement for a company trademark is that the name or logo being trademarked should distinguish the product or service from any other products or services. For example, the product name for Coca-Cola is trademarked because it stands out from all other soft drinks on the market, and everyone who hears the name knows exactly what it refers to.

Just as with copyright law, a trademark does not actually have to be registered in order to get trademark ownership. Even without registering the trademark, you can still use common law to protect against trademark infringement by competitors who attempt to copy the look of your product and pass it off as their own. Just as with copyright law, however, official registration of your trademark comes with certain advantages, including the ability to file a lawsuit in federal court to enforce your trademark against unauthorized use.

To get trademark protection solely within your home state, or in the state where you conduct business, you must register with that particular state. To get federal trademark protection that crosses state boundaries, you must file a trademark registration application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Once you’ve registered your trademark, you will be allowed to use the registered trademark symbol (®). Otherwise, you are limited to the common law trademark symbol (™).

Patents

Generally speaking, patent law protects inventors by giving them the exclusive right to make, use, copy, or sell their inventions or discoveries, or to license their inventions to another person or entity. Obtaining a patent can be extremely difficult, and it often requires the assistance of an experienced intellectual property lawyer.

Unlike with copyrights and trademarks, the only way to avail yourself of patent protection is to apply for and be granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the same agency that handles trademark applications. Absent patent registration, the formula or process used in the invention may be considered a “trade secret.” The main advantage to obtaining a patent is that you can then sue anyone who infringes the patent by using or selling your invention without consent. But patent registration does come with a significant downside: you must publicly disclose the unique process or composition of your product. For certain companies that wish to maintain trade secrecy (e.g., pharmaceutical drug manufacturers), this can present a dilemma.

Contact the California Intellectual Property Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

If someone has infringed on your exclusive intellectual property rights, or if you have been accused of violating someone else’s intellectual property rights, your best move is to speak with a knowledgeable IP lawyer immediately. The California intellectual property attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP, with a main office in Los Angeles, are prepared to help you bolster your IP claim or build a strong defense against an accusation of copyright or trademark infringement. Call us now at 310-590-3927 or fill out the online contact form.

Copyright Registration

What Are the Benefits of Copyright Registration?

Copyright Registration

Copyright protection is a vital part of ensuring that your creative work is not used or appropriated for profit by someone else without express authorization. In fact, one of the reasons that copyright laws exist in the first place is so that authors, musicians, painters, photographers, filmmakers, and others have a financial incentive to create original works of authorship, and so that they don’t have to worry about their hard work being stolen after the fact. One of the best ways to make sure that your work is granted copyright protection and is safeguarded against intellectual property theft is by registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Although copyright registration is not technically a requirement for protection under federal copyright law, it is often a very good idea, and it also provides the copyright holder with many advantages.

What are the benefits of copyright registration? Keep reading to find out.

Filing for Copyright Protection with the U.S. Copyright Office

The primary function of the United States Copyright Office is to maintain all of the country’s records of copyright registration. When someone needs to determine whether a particular work has been formally copyrighted, they can search for the work’s chain of title in an online Copyright Catalog on the U.S. Copyright Office website. All copyrighted works published since 1978 are entered in the online database.

If you are the author or owner of a work, you can apply for copyright registration by filling out an application form (called a Certificate of Registration), paying a filing fee, and submitting a copy of the work that will be deposited with the Copyright Office and that will be viewable on the agency’s website. When you file your Certificate of Registration with the Copyright Office, you will need to include certain information on the form:

  • The title of the work for which you are seeking copyright protection.
  • Important dates, including the year in which the work was completed and the exact date on which the work was first published.
  • The country where the work was first published.
  • The name and address of the person or company who identifies as the copyright claimant.

The copyright application can be submitted online with the Copyright Office, or a paper application can be downloaded from the website and then mailed to the agency. You are allowed to do this at any point after creating the work. Additionally, if you register the copyright before the work has been published, you will not have to re-register the work after publication.

The Advantages of Copyright Registration

Although you can still receive copyright protection even if your original work is not officially registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, it is often a good idea to do so. Copyright registration can provide you with a number of important benefits, including the following:

  1. You are required to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office before you can bring a copyright lawsuit in federal court. However, you can do this at any time – even after you learn about the copyright infringement.
  2. Copyright registration will create a public record of your copyright claim, which can be important later if there is ever a legal dispute about when the work was first created and by whom.
  3. Early registration (typically within three months of the work first being published) can give you more options when seeking damages later in a copyright lawsuit. For a work that was already registered, you can pursue statutory damages and attorney’s fees if you win your legal action, in addition to actual monetary damages caused by any copyright infringement.
  4. Later registration (within five years of the work’s publication) may create a presumption in your favor if the copyright is ever disputed through litigation. Basically, anything you stated on the Certificate of Registration will be assumed to be true.
  5. Copyright registration will give you an additional tool if a copyright infringer ever attempts to import unauthorized copies of your work from foreign countries. You will need to provide a record of your registration to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Responding to Copyright Trolls

Registering your book, screenplay, film, photograph, song, or other work with the United States Copyright Office comes with a number of benefits. Regardless of whether your work is officially registered, however, you can still be targeted by copyright trolls who claim that you do not have a right to use the work. If you have received a copyright cease & desist letter or DMCA takedown notice, you need to speak with a copyright defense lawyer immediately.

Contact the L.A. Copyright Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP Today

The legal team at Tauler Smith LLP includes Los Angeles IP attorneys who have experience responding to copyright demand letters and dealing with copyright trolls. You can call us anytime at 310-590-3927 to discuss your case. You can also submit the online contact form to schedule a consultation.

Copyright Duration

How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?

Copyright Duration

Copyright protection exists to ensure that the creators of original works of authorship, such as movies, photographs, and novels, are able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, so to speak. As set forth by U.S. copyright law, creative artists and authors are generally afforded the exclusive right to profit from their work for a certain period of time. The idea is that people will be motivated to create works that benefit society if they know that they, as well as their descendants, will be able to generate income from the creation, performance, and public display of those works in the future. But how long does copyright protection last? Keep reading this blog to find out.

The U.S. Copyright Act and the Length of Copyright Protection

While the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to pass laws that protect copyrights, it is the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 that sets a time limit for federal copyright protection. According to the statute, the creators of original works of authorship can only have this protection for a certain amount of time before the works enter the public domain and can then be used by anyone. Until that happens, however, only the original author is allowed to sell copies of the work or display the work in public for a profit. When a copyright dispute arises, one of the first questions that almost always gets asked is this: is the work still subject to copyright protection, or has the copyright protection expired?

The precise duration of copyright protection depends on the answers to a number of other questions, including the following:

  • What type of creative work is it?
  • When was the work created?
  • Was the work published? If so, when was it first published?
  • Were there any copyright renewal procedures for the work that needed to be followed?
  • Were there multiple authors?
  • Was it a “work made for hire”?
  • Do we know the identity of the work’s author, or was the author anonymous?

Copyright Duration for Works Created After 1978

The default rule for any work created after January 1, 1978 is that copyright protection lasts for a period of either 70 years from the date on which the original author died. This is also the length of copyright protection for any work created prior to January 1, 1978, as long as that work was not published or registered until after 1978.

Additionally, the length of copyright can vary according to the answers to the questions listed above.

Type of Creative Work

The term of copyright protection follows the same rules for most types of creative works, including literary works, photographs, and films. However, there are some exceptions. For example, sound recordings were affected by the Music Modernization Act, which was signed into law in 2018. The legislation established date ranges (e.g., 1923-1946, 1947-1956, 1957-1972) with different durations for audio recordings and musical compositions.

Identity of Author

Anonymous works (as well as works where the author used a pseudonym) created after 1978 have a copyright duration of either 120 years from the date when the work was created or 95 years from the date when the work was initially published, whichever expires first. However, the default length of 70 years after the author’s death will apply if, at any point, the author’s identity is revealed through an official registration of the work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Joint Works

When the work had multiple authors, the copyright lasts for the life of the last surviving author plus an additional 70 years after that author’s death.

Works Made for Hire

Works created by an employee during the course of their employment are subject to different copyright rules because it is the employer who is technically considered the legal author of the work for the purposes of federal copyright law. Works for hire have the same copyright duration as works created anonymously: either 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation.

Copyright Duration for Works Created and Published Before 1978

Things get more complicated for works that were created and published before 1978 because of subsequent intellectual property laws that allowed for automatic copyright renewal. Since these creative works already had federal copyright protection prior to 1978, they are generally subject to the U.S. Copyright Act of 1909 when it comes to calculating the length of copyright protection. The initial term of protection was 27 years from the date of first publication, with copyright protection able to be extended with renewals. These renewals became automatic with the passage of the U.S. Copyright Renewal Act of 1992.

Contact the California Copyright Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Do you want to know how long the copyright will last on your creative work? Do you have another question about your intellectual property rights? The Los Angeles intellectual property attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP can assist you. You can call us anytime at 310-590-3927, or you can fill out the contact form here.

Instagram Copyright Lawsuits

Can You Get Sued for Posting a Picture of Yourself on Instagram?

 

Instagram Copyright Lawsuits

The popularity of social media has exploded in recent years, with just about everyone having at least one type of social media account. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or some other platform, the reality is that social media accounts and interactions are pretty much unavoidable these days. Unfortunately, as more and more people use social media, there is also a greater chance of legal liability because intellectual property rights may be affected. Even paparazzi are filing copyright lawsuits against celebrities who post photos of themselves on Instagram. One question that comes up more than any other in this area of law is: Can you get sued for posting a picture of yourself on Instagram?

To find out whether you can be sued merely for posting a photograph of yourself on Instagram or other social media platforms, keep reading.

Copyright Troll Lawsuits Target Instagram Account Holders

There has been a proliferation of bad-faith lawsuits in California and other states where lawyers claim that the account holders are violating copyright laws. These copyright trolls are typically looking for a quick cash settlement, and they have little intention of ever taking the case to trial. If you are not careful when using social media, you could find yourself named as the defendant in a potentially expensive civil suit. That’s because copyright troll attorneys who scour the internet looking for supposed “copyright violations” won’t just limit their focus to actors, models, and other celebrities who post photographs of themselves on Instagram. The truth is that anyone who uses social media is at risk.

Copyright Troll Richard Liebowitz Sues Amy Schumer, Gigi Hadid, and Kim Kardashian

In the last three months, celebrities Amy Schumer, Gigi Hadid, and Kim Kardashian have all been sued for posting photos of themselves to their Instagram accounts. In each case, the photographer behind the photos in question has alleged that they are the owner and copyright holder of the media, and that the subjects of the photos have no right to post them. Richard Liebowitz, attorney for the plaintiffs in all cases, has filed complaints stating that, “One cannot use photographs without the photographer’s permission, even for social media websites.” The lawsuits involve DMCA takedown notices, as well a demand for monetary damages.

In the lawsuit against Amy Schumer, the plaintiff’s attorney claims that the photographs in question were copyrighted, even though he does not declare the date of the copyright. A search of records maintained by the United States Copyright Office shows that the photographs were copyrighted on February 8, 2020, which is three months after Schumer allegedly infringed on the copyright by posting the photos.

What Is the Best Way to Respond to a Copyright Troll?


If you’ve been accused of copyright infringement for posting a photograph on Instagram, your first step should be to speak with an experienced intellectual property lawyer who knows how to raise strong defenses against copyright lawsuits. An attorney who understands federal copyright laws can closely examine the facts of the case and identify problems with the original complaint.

For example, the complaint against Amy Schumer states that the plaintiff is “the sole owner of all right, title, and interest” in the photographs. However, if the photo was previously shared on a social media platform by the copyright owner, this may not be the case. Instagram’s terms of use agreement states that when a user shares, posts, or uploads content that is covered by intellectual property rights, they grant to the social media platform “a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivate works of the content.” As such, any plaintiff who posts a photo or video on Instagram is only a non-exclusive licensee of the work, and their legal exposure is probably limited.

Contact the Los Angeles Copyright Defense Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Courts have been receptive to the Instagram copyright case defense, but the issue is not usually litigated because most copyright defendants opt to settle promptly and avoid a trial. If you have been accused of copyright infringement for posting content on your Instagram, Facebook, or other social media account, you need to speak with an attorney immediately. The Los Angeles copyright lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP have experience fighting back against copyright trolls and winning cases before they go to trial.

Call us at 310-590-3927, or send an email to discuss your case.