Copyright versus Trade Marks: Important Differences

What is Copyright?

Copyright protects all original literary and artistic works, including computer programs and compilations of data.

What is a Trade Mark?

A trade mark protects brand names and logos. A trade mark can be names, letters, numbers, colours, shapes, sounds and smells. A trade mark must be capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one trader from those of other traders.

What are the Important Differences between Copyright and Trade Marks?

  1. Copyright and trade marks relate to different subject matter. There is a huge range of material that attracts copyright protection – from books to photographs, paintings, films, sound recordings, TV broadcasts and even buildings. Whereas a trade mark is a tool that is used to protect names and words used by a business, to let consumers know the source of the goods or services.
  2. Copyright and trade marks have different application processes. There is no registration procedure for copyright. Creators automatically are the owners of copyright in relation to the work they create. Whereas a trade mark must be registered in order to obtain protection. Trade marks are granted by regulatory bodies in response to formal applications.
  3. Copyright and trade marks have different requirements for legal protection. Copyright arises automatically upon the creation of an original work. To be registered, a trade mark must be new, non-descriptive, and not consist of material that is likely to deceive or confuse, is scandalous or is contrary to law.
  4. Copyright and trade marks provide different exclusive legal rights. Copyright prevents others from copying or selling the work, among other exclusive rights. A registered trade mark owner has the exclusive right to prevent other traders using a confusingly similar mark.
  5. Copyright and trade marks last for different periods of time. Copyright generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, the exclusive rights provided by a registered trade mark last as long as the trade mark remains registered. Registration lasts for ten years and may be renewed every ten years.

Key Takeaway
Copyright and trade marks are both forms of intellectual property. However, as shown above, they have various differences. The most important difference is that copyright arises automatically upon the creation of the work. Unlike trade marks, it is not necessary for the work to be registered with a regulatory authority for protection to arise.

To speak to a lawyer about copyright and trade marks, call Vault Legal today on 1300 002 212 or email us at

Key words: copyright, trade marks, intellectual property, brand protection, logos and works.