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Do I need to copyright my company name?

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The purpose of copyright law is stated clearly and defined in the following manner: “Copyright is a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks.” If you are confused about what copyright law covers, you can contact the United States Patent and Trademark Office, for further information.

As stated in the copyright explanation, your company name is not protected under copyright law. However, the United States Patent and Trademark Office does offer such protection. According to the USPTO website, “a trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name.”

Companies like Nike, Gatorade, Apple and Microsoft have issued trademarks on their company names and therefore are protected under the law from being used or mentioned without their consent.

You should apply for a trademark for your company name, based on this information. Conveniently, you can fill out an application online and file it over the Internet using their Trademark Electronic Application System. Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval database lets you dig through registered trademarks so that you don’t attempt to duplicate a brand name or company name that has already been established. The system also lets you check on the status of your own application as well.

Trademark rights can be used to prevent others from using the same company name, but they cannot prevent others from making or selling the same goods and services from under a completely different name. The purpose of a copyright is to protect works of authorship as a fixed form of expression. There may be some occasions when both copyright and trademark protection is required. For example, a marketing campaign for a new sports product may also introduce a new slogan for use with the product. Both the slogan and the produce will appear in the advertisement. In this particular case, copyright and trademark protection will deal with different aspects of the advertisement. The advertisement’s text and graphics, as published in print, television, radio or the Internet, will be covered by copyright — but this will not protect the slogan as such. Trademark law may protect the slogan, but it will not cover the rest of the advertisement. If you want both forms of protection, you will have to perform both types of registration.

If you are interested in protecting your company name, a slogan or other word or phrase, you will need to look into getting a trademark. Your company name is not protected under copyright law.

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