Trademark vs Copyright: What’s the difference?

Trademark vs Copyright: What’s the difference?

You've heard a bunch of fancy words thrown around in the biz world. So you're curious: trademark vs copyright – which do you need? And actually, what even are they? Good question, brilliant creative. 

Maybe between celebratory clinks for yet another biz win, you've wondered, 'do you copyright or trademark a logo?' Or perhaps it's even been a hot topic in your biz circle. Then – #bizlife kicks back in and you're back to the grind. 

We see you, putting in the hard yards, creating catchy marketing materials and coming up with a snappy slogan that’ll set you apart from your competitors!

Courageous business owner

So, something that often gets tossed in the ‘too hard’ basket is protecting your business’ precious intellectual property.

FYI: that’s your biz name, logo, copy and content. Plus, any other goodies you create as part of your brand.

We have a sneaking suspicion (hear us out). One of the reasons that you’re neglecting intellectual property protection is because you don’t fully understand what it means.

What’s required.

Why it’s a necessity.

But never fear – we’re here to steer you in the right direction!

Let's dive in. 

What’s the difference between trademarking and copyright protection?

Ahh, trademark vs copyright. The ultimate showdown.

When working out which path is the correct one for your intellectual property type, you’ll need to understand the differences between registering a trademark and copyright protection.

As a general rule, trademarks apply to intellectual property such as names, logos and slogans (and even colours and smells).

While copyright applies to the content you create under your brand’s umbrella.

This could be blogs, social media posts, email newsletters, ad campaigns or digital products. It also applies to the things you come up with for your clients (or yourself), such as website copy or graphic designs.

Let’s dive a little deeper:

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection that provides creators of original works with the exclusive right to control and use it.

AKA copyright grants you moral rights in the works, which essentially means you have the right to be properly identified as the work’s creator and to not have it subjected to derogatory treatment.

What type of work is protected by copyright?

Copyright protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, from poetry, to films, to songs, to software. That means you can’t copyright a company name – we know you were wondering! As a creative, your original works are protected by copyright, whether you’re a:

  • Course creator
  • Painter, designer or illustrator
  • Photographer
  • Writer
  • Podcaster
  • Performer

What rights do I have under copyright?

Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer who’s snapped a stunner wedding in Tuscany. You’re proud of your shots and post them to your business’ social media accounts. #dreamjob

Copyright protection means you have the right to control where your snaps are used (in other words, people need to ask you for permission before they use them).

This prevents copycats from passing your work off as their own. If they don't ask your permission before sharing (or – eek – profiting), and infringe on your copyright, you can take legal action against them.

Does it cost me anything to copyright my work?

Nope! In Australia, copyright is free, and you don’t need to apply to register it. The moment your stellar idea is out in the world, it’s automatically protected for your entire lifetime, plus 70 years after that (as long as your work was created after January 2005). 

What does the © symbol mean?

It means you’re aware of your rights (specifically, your copyright) in the content you’ve applied the © symbol to. You don’t have to use it – and your work will still be protected if you don’t – but it’s a good way to deter copycats from diving in and swiping your carefully and cleverly concocted content.

Since we're exploring the trademark vs copyright debate, here's your lowdown on trademarks. 

What is a trademark? 

A trademark is the primary legal means of differentiating one brand’s name, logo or slogan (or other elements) from those of another business.

Trademarks are registered through IP Australia, and appear on the trademark register as irrefutable proof that you have exclusive ownership of the mark in question.

What can a trademark include?

You can apply to register the following as a trademark:

  • Your logo
  • Your business name
  • The name of your digital product or course
  • Your catchy tagline – “I’m lovin’ it” ring a bell?
  • A distinctive shape – think Toblerone’s unique triangular prism 
  • Your brand colours – Tiffany & Co has registered their signature blue, while Cadbury has registered their iconic shade of purple
  • A signature scent – Play-Doh did this in the United States, describing the smell as “Sweet, slightly musky. Vanilla-like. Slight overtones of cherry. Natural smell of a salted, wheat-based dough”. Delicious!

So, in case you were wondering do you copywright or trademark a name? The answer is for sure, trademark. 

Likewise, if you're wondering do you copyright or trademark a logo – its trademark all the way, baby!

I’ve registered a trademark. What rights do I have?

If you register a trademark, it means you can:

  • Use your trademark in whatever way you want
  • License your trademark to other businesses, so you can share the love (and the profits)
  • Sell your trademark. It’s time to think big!! If you do sell, one of the first questions you'll be asked is what registered trademarks you have. By having at least one registered, it shows a purchaser you do things right. 
  • Protect your intellectual property from copycats or competitors who try to sneak in and steal your name, logo, slogan or other distinguishing element

How do I register a trademark?

Excellent question! Get started protecting your brilliant brand by booking in a chat with your friendly neighbourhood trademark aficionados (that’s us!), or we can even register your trademark for you. Easy peasy. 

If I have a name or logo trademark, should I use the ® symbol or the ™ symbol?

You can only use the ® symbol if you’ve registered your trademark through IP Australia, and the registration process is complete.

Until then, you can use the ™ symbol. Actually, you can use the ™ symbol anytime – registered or unregistered – because it doesn’t really mean much, if we’re honest. The one you want is the ®. So if you’re keen to use it, get to registering!

Psst… unregistered trademarks don’t offer anywhere near as much protection of your precious IP as registered trademarks. 

Reckon there's a clear winner in the trademark vs copyright debate?

We do too. 

A registered trademark is a wise move for your business or company name or logo. 

After all, this gives you the exclusive right to use your name and logo however you please, but also the ability to take legal action if any copycats come clawing. 

Now's the time to get in touch for a chat. Or get the ball rolling stat with a trademark registration consult today!


Riz Amin is Foundd Legal’s founder and a lawyer of over 20 years. When she’s not nose-deep in contracts (or a good glass of red), she’s chasing after her two kiddos or two fluffballs.





***Disclaimer. Please read!!***  


This article is for general information purposes only and should be used solely as general guidance. It does not and is not intended to represent legal advice or other professional advice. 


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