How to Copyright a Phrase

By Dan Chruscinski - Updated March 17, 2017

While it is not legally possible to copyright a phrase, you can protect a phrase or saying with a trademark. Copyright protection is assigned to longer works where authorship is established on a complete creative endeavor. Songs and poetry are covered under copyright protection, while individual words and phrases are exempt. Phrases can be registered as a trademark, which is an easier task if the phrase is part of a business or product advertising campaign.

Protecting Your Phrase With a Trademark

Access the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database to make sure nobody else has placed a trademark on the phrase in question. If there is already a trademark placed, you cannot file for a duplicate.

Select a trademark application from the USPTO website, provided the phrase has not already been trademarked. There are three different applications with different requirements and fees. Read them carefully before selecting an application form.

Fill out a Trademark/Servicemark Application as the Principal Register. The current filing fees range from $225 to $400 per mark per class, which are non-refundable in the event the trademark is rejected.

Upload any required files with information regarding your trademark phrase when the form asks for a copy of the phrase as it intends to be used. The rest of the form will ask for information regarding creation of the phrase, intended use and information about the individual or company filing. At the end of the form, you will be required to enter billing information for the required fee.

Make sure your name will be submitted for opposition upon completion. This means that someone who might have a trademark on the phrase or a similar phrase can protest the trademark. If this occurs, it is recommended that you hire an attorney to proceed with any legal issues that arise.

Look for an “Office Action when submitting for a trademark, " meaning you will need to preform rewrites on your statement of use, clarify entries on the application or respond to a request for further information. The Trademark Examiner will provide you with contact information to send your response.

Be vigilant with your trademark. Once approved, it is up to the creator to enforce the trademark. If another party is using the phrase for profit, the registered trademark will prove ownership during a court case.

Tip

A phrase that is currently being used in everyday conversation is almost impossible to trademark. Make sure the phrase you intend to trademark is unique.

Warning

Consult with an attorney before filing. This will save your time and money during the trademark filing process.

About the Author

Dan Chruscinski has written pieces for both business and entertainment venues. His work has appeared in "Screen Magazine" as well as websites such as Starpulse.com. Chruscinski graduated in 2006 with a degree in English literature from Illinois State University.

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