As a business owner or entrepreneur in California, you are likely in possession of intellectual property related to your work. Generally, IP refers to concepts, images or ideas. Some common examples of IP are inventions, song lyrics and logos. There are several legal procedures you may complete to protect your IP from unauthorized use by others. Two common types of IP protections are copyrights and trademarks. While some people use these terms interchangeably, they refer to different things.
In general, the term “copyright” refers to the protection afforded to original works. For example, if you write a book, make a movie or record a song, each of those entities may get copyright protection. This means that it is illegal for anyone else to copy or reproduce them without getting your permission. Having copyright protection may provide some financial gain, as it gives you the right to charge money to people who want to display your work or create “derivative” products based on your IP. In most cases, simply creating an original work automatically gives you the copyright for it.
While trademarks may seem similar to copyrights, FindLaw indicates that they are two separate aspects of IP protection. Whereas copyright covers creative works, a trademark is an identifying symbol designed to identify and distinguish a product or service. Your business may have a trademark such as a logo that you use on all your branded products. While there is a legal process you may complete to formally register your trademark, the law does not require you to do so. However, registering your trademark may make it easier to prove you legally own the mark.
This information about IP, copyrights and trademarks is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.