Business owners often consult me because they want to “copyright a name” or “copyright an idea.” Similarly, individuals call me hoping to pursue legal action against someone who has supposedly “infringed” or “stolen” the individuals’ ideas. Unfortunately, neither can be done.
A common misconception exists that names for businesses and ideas can be protected from infringement by obtaining copyright protection. This is a fallacy. In truth, if a business owner wants to protect a name for a business or product or service, the business owner needs to obtain trademark or service mark protection—preferably federal trademark or service mark protection. Ideas cannot be protected at all, at least not until you reduced those ideas into some tangible form (such as an invention or written product). An idea turned into some tangible form may be entitled to protection by patent or copyright.
Copyright protects “original works of authorship fixed in…
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