November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #14

14 11 2016

Q:  Is it OK to showcase characters that aren’t trademarked but are copyrighted?

november-q-a-final

A:  I know that this question is with regard to being at trade shows and online marketing, and from speaking with trademark attorneys and others in the field, I believe the answer is ‘yes.’ But always immediately copyright your characters.  However, before attending a show or placing a character online, you must do a search to make sure the trademark is available.

A copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, whereas a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design (or combination thereof) that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods from those of others.

You can promote a character that’s not trademarked. When you have gotten your first or second deal, that’s a good time to make sure you begin putting your trademarks in place.  Trademarks are based on usage, whereas copyrights are not.

If you are a U.S. company, you want to start with your trademarks in the United States. Trademarks are always secured by the product category in a specific country.  So, for example, you might start with stationery (category) in the United States (location), stationery in England and in Italy, and so forth and so on.  Every category in every country that you do business in needs to be covered eventually, but you have time because you can roll out your trademarks, as you start to do business and roll out your products.  What categories and locations you trademark first, once again, depends on your licensing strategy. And be flexible; what order you think you’re going to do it in, and what order you eventually do it in, might be two different things.

You can do basic trademark research online at: www.ustpo.gov/trademarks and file for them yourself.

I do, however, believe if you have large ambition for your trademark that getting the legal help necessary to set up your trademarks and keep them valid is important.

Note: As I am not an attorney, this is not intended to be legal advice and is provided for informational purposes only.

 

 

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