What’s the Difference? Copyright vs Registered Copyright vs Trademark

As a content producer, it is important to know how to best protect your brand and your content. That’s why it is so important to know the difference between copyright, registered copyright, and trademarks.


COPYRIGHT is a designation of YOUR intellectual property (aka, anything you create in that pretty little head of yours and put out into the world in a FIXED form)

  • Creative and literary works automatically have copyright protection when a person creates in a fixed form - meaning: books, blogs, courses, photos, music, etc.

  • There is a presumption that this is your work even without formal notice to the rest of the world (although we all use © as a form of ‘hey - this stuff is all mine!)

  • Copyright lasts for the author’s lifetime plus 70 years

Copyright is for actual CONTENT (ebook, blog posts, courses, videos, PDFs, pictures). You are automatically the owner of this stuff and no one can use it, sell it, or mess with it without your permission.

Copyright gives you the exclusive right to do (or authorize others to) reproduce the work, distribute copies to the public by sale, or display publicly.

Copyright infringement happens when someone takes your work without your permission and does something with it (posts it, sells it, copies it).

So then what the heck is REGISTERED copyright?

Registered copyright is a protection provided by the U.S. government (and many other governments) for an ‘original’ tangible work. In the case of most creative entrepreneurs this will include things like articles, online courses, blog posts, pictures, or ebooks.

While copyright IS automatic and you do have rights just by creating content, REGISTRATION is not automatic.  

While there is a presumption that this is your work even without notice or registration, you cannot seek a claim for copyright infringement unless it is registered.

What does it mean then to register with the U.S. Government and how do you do it?

Registering with the United States Copyright Office does have several advantages.  It formally establishes a public record and it is required prior to bringing an action for infringement (meaning, you usually cannot sue for copyright infringement unless you have first registered your work with the Copyright Office). Registration includes submitting an application, non-refundable filing fee ($35), and a copy of the work to be protected.

What this means:  If someone steals your content and you haven’t registered with the government, you have no right to take legal action against them!  The only thing you can do is send a Cease & Desist letter and/or contact the web host to let them know what’s up.

Is my brand, logo, name a copyright?

To protect your brand, logo, or name you need to TRADEMARK it.

A trademark is a designation of the source of goods or services (i.e., who made it or provides it).  It’s not necessarily your business name, but it might be. It is a word, phrase, symbol, sound, or design (or combination) that distinguishes the goods/services of one party.  

Examples of good/product registered trademarks:

-Nike Swoosh (Swoosh is the trademark and product is athletic clothing and shoes)

Examples of services registered trademarks:

-United Airlines (Blue globe logo is trademark, service is flying)

B-School (Marie Forleo)

-B-School is trademarked, service is life coaching, online marketing, personal development services, etc.

What can you register as a Trademark?

  • Business Name

  • Group program Name

  • Logo

  • Online Course Name

Trademark infringement happens when someone else starts using your name for a similar good/service and in doing so, causes confusion among customers!  

Once you know the differences between these three important designations, you can start protecting your content and your biz.


  • Larry G Turner

    Thank you for clarifying the difference between a Copyright and a Registered Copyright! It was very helpful. But I am wondering if the ONLY difference is the ability to seek legal recourse?

  • Sarah Kornblet Waldbuesser Esq.

    Happy to help Alex, in the world of small business and coaching when it comes to Intellectual Property protection, there is often confusion about what legal tool to use not to mention when is the best time to use any particular tool to secure your brand and content. And that’s really what copyright, registered copyright and trademarks are, legal tools.

  • Alex Cabrera

    So thankful for your assistance today! Looking forward to being with you in service and just having FUN together!

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