Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Legal Lesson

If I had a dime for every time someone asked me the differences between the above four symbols, I would be a rich woman. The funny thing is, I never really, truly knew when and where to use the appropriate symbols. As a designer, in any field, this is information you should know, and will be asked about. I did some research and here is a cliff note definition of each:

© stands for Copyright. This symbol is used on copies of work to inform the world of ownership. While use of a copyright notice was once required as a condition of copyright protection, it is now optional. Use of the copyright notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require registration with the Copyright Office. If anything you create goes to print, use a copyright + date every time.

TM stands for Trademark. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of those that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Basically, you are telling the public that you have a claim on this. It is not necessary to register this mark, however it is usually a good idea for several reasons: it acts as a legal presumption of the registrant's ownership of the mark; it is a constructive notice to the public of the registrant's claim; and it will have the ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court (that's a biggie).

SM stands for Service Mark. A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.

® stands for Registered. This is the most difficult of the 4 to obtain, because you need to actually register the mark through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). For example, you can put a registered mark on a logo, but it means nothing and won't hold up in court until you actual register it. If you are starting a business and have a new logo...register it.

Ok, not the most exciting topic in the world, but at least now you know. Go to the USPTO website for more information and links to applications.

1 comment:

Meghan B said...

I love you! You know, I have to use these all the time but never knew what they meant. God, you're good!