Works Protected by Copyright
Copyright law protects literary, musical, dramatic, pantomime, choreographic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, audio, visual and architectural works. This protection occurs automatically upon creation of the work in some tangible format, be it written text, graphic representation, or audio or visual recording. Although the owner is not required to register the copyright with the federal government, a copyright must be registered before it may be fully enforced in court. Copyright protection lasts for 70 years after the author's death. If the right is owned by anyone other than the work's author, copyright protection extends for 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from the date of its creation, whichever period is shorter.
Works Not Protected by Copyright
Specifically excluded from copyright protection are ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods, concepts, principles or discoveries. Also ineligible for copyright protection are titles, names, pseudonyms, catchwords, catchphrases, mottos, slogans and short advertising expressions. As a rule, company slogans are not copyrightable.
Trademark protection is available for slogans that meet the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's definition of a trademark: “a word, phrase, symbol or design" used to identify and distinguish the source of a product from another. Similar protections extend to service marks, which identify the producer of a service rather than a product. To qualify for trademark protection, a slogan must be distinctive and closely identified with a commercial product or service. Unlike copyrights, which expire after specific time periods, a trademark registration may be extended indefinitely by filing renewal applications.
Trademark Vs. Registered Trademark
Those who wish to claim rights to a specific mark often follow it with the symbol “TM” to denote ownership or that a formal trademark application has been filed but has not yet been granted. The symbol “®” indicates that an application for trademark protection of the mark has been granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Registration of a Trademark
Registration of a trademark is an involved process. The application must identify the basis for the trademark filing: either proof the mark is already used in commerce or will be in the near future. The applicant must also search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database to confirm the mark has not already been claimed by another applicant.