A copyright is a protection issued under government law. It is given to authors of published and unpublished original works and includes literature, music and art. One cannot actually copyright a name, however, as copyrights are not issued for the protection of names or short phrases. In many instances, these fall under the protection of trademarks, which are also issued by the government. Someone who wants to copyright a name should instead obtain a trademark, which typically involves searching existing marks with the respective government office and then completing an application.
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design — or any combination thereof — that distinguishes a product’s source from that of another. To copyright a name means to prevent its duplication by another entity. Trademarks, copyrights and patents each differ from each other in what they protect. A patent, for example, protects an invention.
Someone who wants to copyright a name must actually apply for a trademark. Copyrights are only for the protection of intellectual works. The first step in trademark application requires a person to search a database of existing trademark names and prior pending applications. In the United States, for example, the database is referred to as the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). Searching the respective government database ensures a trademark application is not denied because of name duplication or confusion.
If the name in-question is already registered with a government trademark office, one must determine an available business name. The government patent database can be used as a guide for new names or to slightly alter the original name. To trademark a name, a person must have a viable phrase or word not previously recorded.
The trademark application must be completed after an acceptable name is found. This form is commonly available online from the respective government office and can be submitted electronically. Persons in England, for instance, submit their applications to the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office. Similarly, applications in Canada are returned to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and in the US, applications go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Most countries have similar government offices that process trademark applications.
Although an attorney is not required to trademark a name, some persons may choose such representation. Attorneys are often familiar with copyright and trademark laws and can thus guide clients. In Mexico, for example, attorneys handle the name search and also complete the necessary paperwork.
Trademark applications usually require the applicant’s name, address for correspondence, a clear provision of the name to be trademarked, a listing of the goods and services to be provided, and a filing fee. The fee may vary with each government agency and is usually listed on the respective website. Some offices, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office, will return trademark applications if any specified requirements are missing.
Once submitted, an examining attorney or government body reviews trademark application to ensure it meets the minimum filing requirements. Following that step, applications are evaluated for compliance with all applicable rules. A letter is often sent to the applicant if a name cannot be trademarked. At that time, persons normally have the opportunity to re-submit applications with the recommended changes. If no objections are made to a registration, or if an applicant overcomes prior objections, the name will be approved for trademark registration.