Copyrights and trademarks are some of the most valuable tools used to protect content. Copyright protects a creative work such as a book or film, and helps the original author keep control of his hard work. Likewise, a trademark is used to safeguard a specific catch-phrase or term marketed by a company. Finding which trademarks are available and checking the copyright status of creative work are both very valuable in today's content-focused world. Learn how to do both by following this guide.
Before beginning, it's important to understand both copyrights and trademarks. Here are their definitions, direct from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:
"A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Trademarks, copyrights and patents all differ. A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work; a patent protects an invention."
Both copyrights and trademarks can be registered with the government, but neither is required to be registered in order to be valid. No notice of copyright is legally required on a creative work. A copyright exists as soon as a work is created, and automatically belongs to the creator.
Even though registration of copyrights and trademarks isn't legally required, it is highly recommended. Registering makes proof of ownership easy to identify. It prevents confusion and protects a claim, especially in court.
These points are important when it comes to Internet research. If a work does not appear in registration search results, it is not automatically available or public domain. However, this search is often useful as a starting point to verify ownership.
Go to http://www.copyright.gov/records/ and click "Search the catalog." For pre-1978 registrations, click the link under "Other Services."
Enter your search term, and select the result type from the list. Press "Begin Search" when ready.
A list showing your results will display. Clicking an entry will show detailed information for that work.
Go to http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=login&p_lang=english&p_d=trmk to begin your Trademark search. There are several search methods available. The best choice to start is to click "New User Search Form Basic."
Enter the name or phrase you are searching for. You can chose to include Live, Dead, or both results. Dead results are previous trademarks that have expired. When ready, press "Submit Query."
A list of results will display. You can click each result to see details of the trademark entry.
This guide covers only the basics of online Trademark and Copyright search. The best way to continue research is to run a large amount of Internet searches and compare results from different sources. For important searches before making a claim, professional researchers are also available.
Trademark and Copyright law is a complicated and sometimes confusing topic. Always consult with experts in this area of law before taking significant steps. The Internet should be a resource tool, not your only source of advice.