The main thing you can do to protect your copyright and trademark is register them. Trademarks arise from use; copyright arises from putting something original in a fixed medium. You don’t need the government to give you a copyright or a trademark. They arise organically but registration makes your trademark or copyright a lot more powerful.
With trademark, you go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and you submit an application. There’s some back and forth and there’s an examiner, who tries to make sure that your mark has not been used by anyone else for similar goods and services. This is a somewhat expensive process but it’s worthwhile because trademarks take a lot of effort to prove up. But with a registration, all I have to do is attach the trademark registration to the complaint, and the trademark is presumed valid. Another benefit of trademark registration is that it puts you in the USPTO database. If someone later tries to register their mark for something similar, services will get blocked by the examiner without you having to do anything.
You cannot file a lawsuit to enforce your copyright unless you have registered the copyright (or you’ve tried and failed). What good is a copyright, if you can’t enforce it? If you register timely, you are eligible for statutory damages and eligible to recover your attorney’s fees (assuming, of course, you are successful in enforcing your copyright). You get a three month grace period, after you first publish your work, to be eligible for these benefits. These benefits often make all the difference because it’s not always possible to prove actual damages with copyright, and it wouldn’t be economical to sue for copyright infringement without the chance to recover your attorney’s fees.
For registering trademarks, it’s better to use a lawyer. The filing fees aren’t cheap, and there’s an art to drafting the application and to dealing with the trademark examiners. There’s also a lot to keep track of with trademark applications. For copyright registrations, it’s better to learn to do it yourself. There are often a lot of them to register, so hiring a lawyer would quickly become non-economical. If you are registering the same sort of works, you can learn the ropes fairly quickly, and you can hire a lawyer to teach you the basics.
For more information on Proactive Steps To Protect Your Business, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (615) 734-1188 today.