I was at a session on copyright and trademarking a few weeks ago and I came away with a few good nuggets I thought I would share as I know there are a few people out there it will affect.

  1. First rule of thumb, copyright exists with the creator! If you are the designer illustrator, photographer or whatever, if you created it, you own the copyright. The only way your client has the legal copyright is if you sign it over to them in your contract. If you didn’t then you own it – I thought that was interesting.
  2. This one is for creatives who also dabble with music. When you record someone, the copyright for that recording is with you. The producer is the copyright owner of the recording, again you have to sign it over contractually if the client wants the copyright. Also, they may think they own the copyright to the song, which they do if they wrote the lyrics, but if you made the musical arrangement for them, then you own the copyright to that, as music and lyrics are separate copyrights in a song.

So on the flip side of that, as business owners, if you have ever had anything produced by a designer who has not assigned you the copyright in a legal document then you either need to get them to do so, or you are at risk of your designers claiming they own the copyright. Check out the case of Innocent Smoothies, they had to go through legal battles just to be able to use their logo.

TM = Trademark – Is a visual logo or word mark. No legal basis for any claim, trademark actually means nothing. Though some people use it to scare others off, or while they are applying for Registered Trademark.

® = Registered Trademark – Is a visual logo or word mark. This is the legal version of the trademark, which you can legally enforce should someone attempt to use it. You can only use this if you legally register your logo, to use it without officially registering is an offence.

© = Copyright – Most things can be copyright protected like words, logos, photos, designs etc. As long as there is a written or documented form of something, you can copyright it. There is no need to register anything, but if a dispute were to happen having dated proof is a help. The old ‘stick it in an envelope and send it to your solicitor approach’ helps. Copyright only applies to something that could have been copied, if no one has ever seen or heard it except you, there is no case.

To end, get yourself protected.

If you ever want to sell your business you need to own the copyright to everything you are selling…or it isn’t yours to sell. Including your logo.