I've written about the difference between copyrights and trademarks before but I thought it a good idea to get into the nitty-gritty of specific works. Today's post is about...
We've had the pleasure of assisting many writers and publishers over the years (need help with both? Check out The 90 Day Author) and this is a group of folks that need both copyrights and trademarks. Let's break it down, shall we?
First, congratulations! Whether you've completed a novel, a reference book, a cookbook, a children's book, or any major text, please take a moment to pat yourself on the back. That's quite an accomplishment and should be savored!
Now that you've got the creative-y stuff settled it's time to get to business, namely, the business of protecting your work. Simply put, copyright your printed works and trademark any element that you'll be using in commerce.
Literary works include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, textbooks, catalogs, and more. Check out the full list here. The Copyright Office allows online filing and seeing as how it's only 35 bucks a pop it is more than worth it to file each and every literary work you create. This is applicable even if you haven't published your piece yet.
What about Book Titles?
This is an area worth exploring a bit. Titles of a single creative work are not protected by trademark law. Let's delve into this a bit further.
Single creative works consist of materials where the content does not change, such as a book, a DVD, downloadable songs and a film. Single creative works do not include periodically issued publications, such as magazines, newsletters, brochures, comic books, comic strips or printed classroom materials, because the content of these works change with each issue.
However, trademark registration may be possible if the title is used on a series of creative works or is used in other arenas.
When it comes to titles for a book series, the rationale is the same: while the title stays the same, the content changes. Take a look at the filing for Ring of Fates, part of The Final Fantasy catalog: "a series of books featuring fictional stories and/or fantasy stories."
When it comes to trademarks for literary works it is not possible to protect the work itself but it could be possible to protect the various representations of the work. I'll explain:
- If your literary work is a part of a series (e.g. Harry Potter) then you should have comprehensive research conducted prior to filing for a trademark.
- If you have a set of characters or designs or even the book title that will be used on goods such as clothing, toys, posters, etc. (e.g. Dr. Seuss) then, again, you'll need comprehensive research conducted prior to filing for a trademark.
- If you're not sure if a trademark applies to your situation, please leave a comment here or email me - shannon at tmexpress.com
This area is going to be a bit different for you. Some publishing companies own the copyright to the literary works though, more often than not, publishers typically are licensees. Where your company falls in this spectrum is going to depend on your author agreements. For further guidance, check out this booklet from the World Intellectual Property Organization.
This area is pretty clear cut for you folks. Since you're offering a service you'll want to make sure that your company name and/or logo is legally available before filing for a trademark.
Have more questions? Please leave a comment here or email me directly -- shannon at tmexpress.com