Once again the music industry is at war over copyright issues. This year, lawsuits between songwriters claiming copyright infringements seem to be popping up all over the place, and with Led Zeppelin being challenged about plagiarism in a song they penned back in 1971, one thing is clear; copyright remains a serious and often expensive business that not even rich and famous rock legends can escape.
Copyright is essentially a legal right that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution. It is mostly thought about in terms of protecting music and photography, but from a business perspective there are a number of things which you can and should ensure are protected by copyright. These include your company marketing collateral, your logo (depending on its make up), website content such as articles and blogs, as well as images. You do not need to specifically register for copyright against your work, however, you should use the © symbol and date your work.
In contrast to Copyright protection, registering your brand or trade mark is commercially significant. A trade mark refers to signs which are used by traders to differentiate their goods and services from those of other traders. The trade mark or ‘brand’ can be a business’s most valuable asset. A registered trade mark confers the statutory right to the exclusive use of the mark.
A trade mark can take any form, from words, letters, slogans and sounds, to colours, shapes and even smells, as long as it’s distinctive enough to identify the goods or services and distinguish them from their competitors.
Having a registered trade mark enables you to take legal action against anyone who is financially benefiting or gaining recognition from your company’s mark without your permission. Your trade mark forms part of your good will and reputation, and its use by someone else could also cause harm to your company by association.
If you own a registered UK or EU trade mark, you have exclusive rights and protection against infringement or use of it without your consent. You have the right to sue anyone who uses an identical or similar mark in connection with identical or similar goods. If the mark is well known, you can prevent the same or a similar one being used, even if the other person’s goods and services are not similar to yours. For instance, where unfair advantage is being taken of your trade mark and use of it is detrimental to its distinctive character or reputation.
If you haven’t registered a trade mark and you believe your brand is being used without your permission, you can still take action, but it’s a complex and lengthy process, so having one makes sound business sense.