LEGAL MUST KNOW: The Difference Between Copyright and Trademark

As entrepreneurs and online business owners, protecting our intellectual property is paramount/vital/really freaking important!!

In the realm of intellectual property (aka IP), two forms of protection often come into play AND are often confused: Copyright and Trademark.  

While both are important tools for safeguarding our creations and our brand, they serve distinct purposes and cover different aspects of our business.  Today, let’s do a quickie on the key differences between Copyright and Trademark to help you understand their roles in protecting your IP, and therefore protecting your business.


Copyright is a form of protection granted to original works of authorship, such as literary, artistic, musical, and other creative expressions, fixed in a tangible medium. This protection is automatic from the moment the work is created, meaning you don't need to register or take any formal steps to obtain copyright rights. Nobody else can use it, steal it, profit from it without your permission in theory.  However, in practice, the internet is the wild west and people do steal things all the time.  If this happens to you, you can send a Cease & Desist Letter OR you can register the copyright with the U.S. government, and then you can bring a claim for copyright infringement.


  • What it Protects: Copyright protects the actual content you are creating, not the ideas themselves. So think, books, ebooks, courses, photographs, paintings, songs, movies, etc.  It grants exclusive rights to the creator, allowing them to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and create derivative works based on their original creation.
  • Duration of Protection: In most countries, including the United States, copyright protection lasts for the creator's lifetime plus an additional period (here it’s 70 years) after their death. After the copyright expires, the work enters the “public domain” and can be freely used by anyone. Want to use Mozart’s music as your podcast opener? Feel Free!
  • Copyright Symbol: While not mandatory (AND DOESN’T REALLY DO anything), displaying the © symbol, along with the name of the copyright owner and the year of creation, serves as a notice to the public and potential infringers that the work is protected.


A trademark is a word, phrase or symbol that identifies and distinguishes the goods or services of one entity from those of others. It can include names, logos, slogans, and even distinctive packaging (hello Tiffany Blue). Unlike copyright, trademark protection is not automatic and you must register it with the government (here it’s the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)). Registration can take over a year, is quite complicated and you will want a trademark attorney to help you (Hi, hi!). Learn more about our trademark packages HERE. 


  • What it Protects: Trademarks protect your brand - your business name, program name, signature course, logos, podcast, etc. They are the indicators of the source of goods or services. They prevent others from using a similar mark that may cause confusion among consumers. We see a “swoosh” on a shoe, we think Nike. We see a white cup with a green circle, we think Starbucks.  We see B-School, we think Marie Forleo. These are all trademarks. 
  • Duration of Protection: Trademark protection can last indefinitely, as long as the mark is actively used in commerce and USPTO fees are paid as required by law.
  • Trademark Symbol: Trademarks get the ® symbol once they are officially registered with the USPTO. However, before registration, the ™ symbol can be used to indicate that the mark is being claimed as a trademark, a lot of people do this but it definitely doesn’t give you any actual legal protection like the ®. 


The main distinction between Copyright and Trademark are their purposes. Copyright is about content and creative works, while Trademark focuses on safeguarding brands and their reputation.

Trademarks are powerful business assets and can be traded or sold (AND are crucial to have if you are considering ever selling your business).  Copyright is important for signature works, like ebooks, courses, etc.

Understanding the difference between Copyright and Trademark is important and each serve their purpose. After reading this, hopefully you have a better understanding of which is which and when you may need to utilize each.  If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment below!

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