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-   -   copyright vs. trademark for company name (https://www.t-shirtforums.com/general-t-shirt-selling-discussion/t5045.html)

Swing Easy August 14th, 2006 03:56 PM

copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
I am in the very early stages of putting together a graphics service, which may or may not be an actual "company," that being a seperate question. T-shirts are one of the avenues I'm going to take in getting my original designs out there.

My question is this; if I were to constantly and conspicuously utilize a "company" name (not my own name), say, at the bottom of a design, how much copyright protection would that afford THE NAME.

Let's say I want to call my service "Loopy Lou's Loony Designs", and I printed that at the bottom of all of my designs, and I put that name on my website, and generally sold designs under that title. Could someone come along and pay to TRADEMARK that name, and simply walk away with it because I hadn't trademarked it? Am I protected in any way by US copyright laws, since I'd already been using that name clearly and consistantly?

I'd go ahead and trademark my name, which I'm quite fond of (no, it's not Loopy Lou's) but it's money I don't have right now. At the same time I want to build that name to some degree, rather than using my own name. My goal is to sell printed clothes at first, then hopefully use that as a springboard for selling other printed things, and licensing custom designs, etc.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Swing Easy August 14th, 2006 04:24 PM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
I should also add that this would involve a LOGO as well, which incorporates the full name. Though the logo would not be on most designs (just the plain printed name would be at the bottom), it would be on the website and SOME of the designs.

Rodney August 14th, 2006 04:27 PM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
If your company is a brand, then you should officially register it as a trademark (thinking long term).

A few of your questions are sort of "legal" questions that might require a lawyer (outside the scope of this forum), but we may be able to give some "general" non-legal opinions.

Quote:

Could someone come along and pay to TRADEMARK that name, and simply walk away with it because I hadn't trademarked it? Am I protected in any way by US copyright laws, since I'd already been using that name clearly and consistantly?
How would someone know that you have clearly and consistently used the name if you haven't registered it.

What I mean is, what if someone else came up with the same exact name on their own (coincidence does happen) and they wanted to protect it it from being taken.

So they do their research, do a search of existing registered trademarks and copyrights and don't see anything registered. So they register it. What would be wrong with that? How would they even know you exist?

By registering it "officially", you also get your name "on the books", which makes it more easy to prove that you were there first.

It's possible that you could become so established that your name would come up in a search. For example: threadless.

I don't know if threadless is trademarked, but if someone other than threadless tried to trademark the word threadless, I *think* they would have a hard time doing it because threadless has been pretty established over the years, so it would come up when researching the name (even if it isn't officially registered).

If you are new and 2 people come up with the same name/company name within a year, who is to say which came first without registration.

Like I said though, this is just one opinion :) The best answer may be to just "contact a lawyer" :)

T-BOT August 14th, 2006 04:28 PM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
...remember that you can sue for false and misleading representations when scum use your company name to sell semilar products.

the problem is, what do you sue scum for ? their bicycles ???? lol

Actually, even posting your real name on this board will carry some weight... (do get it registered tho ), if a scum were to rip you off they would most likely get stepped on. :D

binki August 14th, 2006 05:50 PM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
110 Attachment(s)
I can say that before just throwing up our hands and buying the equipment we looked for over a year to purchase a screen printing or similar business and found some great companies with piss-poor execution and no trademarks or copyrights even though they had some good products and names and were there first.

If you think you have something, or even if you don't, trademark it, copyright it, claim it, and do whatever you have to to make sure when you are rich and famous you can sue the bejesus out of anyone that tries to make money off of your name or idea.

Swing Easy August 14th, 2006 08:40 PM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by binki
If you think you have something, or even if you don't, trademark it, copyright it, claim it...

Well, so far as my designs go, of which I have a lot that I like quite a bit, I've always thought that copyrighting occured automatically upon creation (in the US, at least). The little bit of freelance illustration that I've done, I've always copyrighted with my name and the year, which is suposed to seal the deal ain't it? So as far as doing anything fancy and legal, I'd just have to worry about Trademark for my logo/company name, right?

binki August 14th, 2006 09:03 PM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
110 Attachment(s)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Swing Easy
Well, so far as my designs go, of which I have a lot that I like quite a bit, I've always thought that copyrighting occured automatically upon creation (in the US, at least). The little bit of freelance illustration that I've done, I've always copyrighted with my name and the year, which is suposed to seal the deal ain't it? So as far as doing anything fancy and legal, I'd just have to worry about Trademark for my logo/company name, right?

I am not an attorney although I am paying out the nose for my daughter to be one, but I would say yes to all of that. You can TM on your own or use a service like legalzoom. It seems pretty straight forward to do it on your own if you have the time. Once you know the ropes it should be easy for future TM's.

Rodney August 14th, 2006 10:17 PM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
Quote:

I've always thought that copyrighting occured automatically upon creation (in the US, at least). The little bit of freelance illustration that I've done, I've always copyrighted with my name and the year, which is suposed to seal the deal ain't it?
That's true, but at the same time, you can only get damages if your design is officially registered with the US Copyright office.

It can also be hard to prove that you created the design *first* without an officially registered copyright (poor man's copyright won't work).

Swing Easy August 15th, 2006 11:11 PM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Rodney
...you can only get damages if your design is officially registered with the US Copyright office.

OK, I understand, but then what exactly does the unregistered copyright do? Does it allow you to at least STOP someone from stealing your work, even if you can't get damages?

Rodney August 16th, 2006 10:49 AM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
Quote:

OK, I understand, but then what exactly does the unregistered copyright do? Does it allow you to at least STOP someone from stealing your work, even if you can't get damages?
That's the catch22 (as I see it). Technically, a work is copyrighted to the creator at the time of its creation.

You really can't "stop" someone from the "act" of stealing your work. There are no "prevention" methods. Even a registered copyright or trademark can be stolen (and are stolen all the time).

Sure a copyright or trademark notice on a design will deter some people. But others may not care about that little notice or may be ignorant of what the rules are for using stuff they find.

The trick comes in getting them to stop using your copyrighted or trademarked work AFTER the fact.

If you just have a non-registered copyright, you have to figure out some way to prove that you created the work first. That way you can prove that you are the originator of the work and the copied work is indeed a copy.

The best way to do that is by registering the work with the copyright office (or in the case of trademarks, the trademark office). Then you have registered proof of the creation date and the copyright owner.

That will hold up much better when you contact the other party (or their host, or their printing company) to get them to stop using your work. If they don't stop, then that registered work will help you get damages in court.

Again, I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV :)

T-BOT August 25th, 2006 01:45 PM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Swing Easy
Let's say I want to call my service "Loopy Lou's Loony Designs", and I printed that at the bottom of all of my designs, and I put that name on my website, and generally sold designs under that title. Could someone come along and pay to TRADEMARK that name, and simply walk away with it because I hadn't trademarked it?

How would they know about the name ?

nobody knows you when you're a nobody.

do you have a name yet?

Swing Easy August 25th, 2006 02:09 PM

Re: copyright vs. trademark for company name
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by T-BOT
How would they know about the name ?

nobody knows you when you're a nobody.

do you have a name yet?

Yes, I have a name, but I am not yet using it. The question, which has been answered to my satisfaction, was if someone could make a registered trademark of my company name (and/or logo), AFTER I'd been using it in commerce, and more or less steal it away.

I've been doing freelance artwork for years, but I now want to oporerate as a company, under a company name.

I'm now inclined to Trademark it BEFORE I start using it in place of my own name. I've secured more capitol now, so the fee shouldn't be a huge deal. I'll be sure to debut my name here first, if it all pans out.


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