Trademark vs Copyright: What’s The Difference

On the surface, trademark and copyright appear to be relatively interchangeable. And whilst it may be true that in daily conversation the two words can be used to describe laying down legal ownership of a brand or business’ asset, in legal terms, they actually refer to slightly different frameworks and processes. If you’re not in the legal profession, you might wonder why knowing about trademark vs copyright is important. However, to understand how best to protect your business’ assets and intellectual property, you need to know whether you’re interested in copyright or trademarks. This article will break down the differences between trademarks and copyright, giving you a beginner’s overview of everything you need to know. 

If you want to know about how to register a trademark in the UK, check out our article.

Trademark vs Copyright 

Trademark and copyright are both different ways of protecting your intellectual property. However, to properly understand the differences between trademarks and copyright, we need to delve into them separately. 

What is a Trademark? 

In the UK, a trademark is a type of intellectual property which you must pay for and register. A trademark is key to distinguishing the goods/services of one undertaking from another’s. 

You don’t benefit from a trademark’s legal protection until it’s registered, and this process takes up several months.  

You can trademark words, sounds, logos, colours, or a combination of all of these, but you must ensure that your proposed trademark doesn’t infringe any of the restrictions (such as being offensive or too generic). Trademarks are registered for different classes of goods and services. You can register a single trademark in up to 45 classes, so it is important to carefully select the classes of interest to you. 

A trademark lasts 10 years and once you’ve successfully registered it, you gain the right to take legal action against anyone who uses your sign or mark without permission, sell and license your sign or mark if you want to, and include the ® symbol next to your sign or mark. 

A trademark is not automatically international, so you will need to register a trademark in each jurisdiction of interest to you. 

What is a Copyright? 

When you create an original piece of art, music, literature or drama you are automatically afforded a copyright. In other words, you don’t need to apply for a copyright to get one. 

This also applies to any original non-literary work like software, web content and databases, as well as sound, music, film, TV and broadcast recordings and the layouts of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works. 

A copyright effectively stops copycats from profiting from your work or using it without your permission. Your copyright will stop people from being able to copy your work, distributing, renting or lending copies of it, as well as adapting it or posting it on the internet. 

A copyright isn’t necessarily international, but some international agreements mean that your copyright can also extend to other jurisdictions. The duration of copyright depends on the type of work. For example, for literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works, copyright lasts for 70 years after the author’s death.

Differences Between Trademark vs Copyright: What They Protect 

Now that we’ve understood trademark and copyright separately, let’s look more closely at the differences between them. 

Automatic vs Need To Register 

The first key difference that we can identify is that copyright arises automatically when you create an original piece of eligible work. In contrast, you must apply to register a trademark with the Intellectual Property Office and there is a chance your application won’t be successful. 


Whilst a copyright has a variable (but finite) duration, you have to renew a trademark every 10 years. 

Ability to renew 

You can continue to renew a trademark every 10 years. However, copyright expires for good after its set duration. 

Geographic coverage 

Trademarks are jurisdiction-specific, meaning even if you register a trademark in the UK this won’t cover you abroad. If you want a trademark in another jurisdiction, you will need to make a separate application. Copyright, on the other hand, can cover you in more than just the UK if there is a relevant international agreement.

Trademark vs Copyright Infringement 

If someone infringes your trademark or copyright, it’s important to understand the legal options available to you. You can take legal action if someone infringes your copyright or trademark, but you can also choose to go through a mediator outside of court. However, it’s always advisable to take advice from a legal expert before initiating proceedings. 

If you are trying to file a copyright infringement claim, you can only do so through the courts. However, if you’re taking action against trademark infringement you can go via the courts or through the IPO. 

If you do end up going to court, you can ask the court to grant an injunction which will prevent the person from further infringing your copyright, to grant you damages, or to force the infringing party to give the goods back to you. 

If you want advice or support with a trademark application or need legal representation regarding a trademark infringement, get in touch to find out about our services. 

FAQs about Trademark and Copyright 

How much does it cost to get a UK trademark? 

To register a trademark in the UK you will have to pay an application fee of £170, as well as any relevant fees for legal support in the process. 

What is stronger a copyright or trademark? 

Both copyright and trademark give you ownership over something (an original work, a logo etc), though as we’ve seen, what they cover, how they arise and apply is slightly different. So rather than being a question of strength, copyright and trademarks apply to different types of intellectual property, whilst still giving you the appropriate legal ability to take action against infringements. 

Do I need both copyright and trademark? 

No, you don’t. They are different types of intellectual property that apply to different objects, whilst still affording you the legal protection and ownership that you need. 

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