Copyrights and trademarks protect very different and specific things in your handmade or creative business.
The big questions are:
- do you need them
- can you afford them
- what do all those little symbols mean
- and can you understand all the legal speak that’s involved in the application process?
Copyrights protect creative or intellectual works.
This would include the patterns that you write and even the blog posts on your website.
A copyright starts as soon as you create an original work
You should include a “copyright notice”, which contains the following:
Copyright © MM/DD/YYYY, Your Name, Your Business Name
A copyright notice MIGHT (and often does) discourage others from stealing or copying word for word your design or blog post – but it doesn’t prevent them from doing so. When you include that dated notice a potential infringer can’t say that they didn’t know it was copyrighted.
Going the extra mile and registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office can make it easier to win a copyright infringement case and maybe collect enough money to cover the cost of the case – but it’s expensive.
You must copyright each pattern or design individually. From what I can figure (and it’s pretty complicated), it’s about $35.00 or $55.00 for each copyright – if you file online, and $85.00 if you file a paper application. Now, I could be wrong about that I’ll be honest and say I did a Google search for “how much does a copyright cost” and those are the amounts I came up with.
I was also curious about how to copyright an entire website. There is a lot involved and from what I can figure out, it’s something that you pretty much have to do every year. Here’s a quick overview of the steps involved:
- Print EVERYTHING that is currently on your website
- Complete the application, pay the fee & submit the printed material – this provides you with your initial copyright
- Each year, print out all the new blog posts/content
- Fill out the application, pay the fee & submit the new stuff
Believe it or not, but copyright laws have been around since 1787 and are part of the U.S. Constitution! If you’d like to read all the legal speak, you can do so here on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Clause
Trademarks protect company names, slogans/taglines, and logos.
Trademarking these items can help you to protect your brand and make sure that competitors/potential competitors don’t use a similar business name, slogan/tagline or logo.
When you register your trademark you get to include the registered trademark symbol ®.
But did you know that you don’t have to actually register your trademark in order to have protection?
- When you register your business name with your home state and pay the registration fee your business name is trademarked in your home state and no one else can use it.
- Simply using your company name, slogans and logo’s (on a website) provides you with what’s known as “common law” protection.
- Adding the trademark symbol ™ to the bottom right corner of your logo indicates that you are claiming those “common law” rights – which ONLY apply to your home state.
If you want nationwide protection, you need to register at the Federal level – which is super costly and complicated. Here’s a sample of costs that I found while doing research:
- Trademark registration at the Federal Level $225.00 – $400.00 if done online ($600 if you do a paper application)
- $100 – $200 for State registration
- Lawyers charge about $125.00 an hour (or more)
- $300-$400 every 10 years to renew
My take on copyrights & trademarks
This may be harsh – but if someone is going to steal something, they are going to steal it. There is nothing you can do about that.
If you’ve spent the money on copyrights & trademarks and you discover someone has stolen your content, business name, slogan, logo, etc. You can hire a lawyer and take that person to court and MAYBE collect enough money from the lawsuit to cover your costs- BUT – you have to have the money to hire the lawyer and they have to have enough money to cover the cost…..
Personally, as a small business I’ll implement the copyright notice and the trademark symbol and take my chances.
Right now I just can’t justify the costs. That may change in the future – but as a bookkeeper or number cruncher – for right now, I just can’t justify the costs.
So, there you have it. A very basic overview of copyrights and trademarks – without making your head explode (hopefully).
Will you spend the money for copyrights & trademarks for your handmade or creative business?