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A copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. Examples are: poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. However, a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Below, we illustrate the difference between the copyright and trademark symbols and how to use them.

Copyright Symbol ©

We recommended using the copyright notice symbol © for the following reasons:

Copyright Symbol
Copyright Symbol
  • To inform the public that the work is protected by copyright (and thereby helps to scare aware potential infringers);
  • To prevent a party from claiming the status of “innocent infringer,” which may allow a party to escape certain damages under the Copyright Act;
  • An appropriate copyright notice identifies the copyright owner and the year of first publication (so that third parties know who to contact to request a license to the work); and
  • It’s a requirement to include the copyright notice if the work is published and you seek to register the copyright with the US Copyright Office.

For the above reasons, you should include the copyright notice within the work you created. A proper way to give notice is by using the following format:

  1. Copyright ©
  2. Year of First Publication
  3. Name of the Copyright Owner

For example, “Copyright © 2021 John Doe. All rights reserved.” This copyright notice should be prominently placed within the work. As such, place it either on the title page or cover and use it consistently on every copy.

Also, discover 8 benefits of copyright registration.

Trademark Symbols ™, ℠ and ®

Trademark Symbol
Trademark Symbol

The trademark symbol gives notice to the public of your trademark use. We recommend using the or the symbol when you do not have a federal registration.

You can use the (trademark) symbol when you are using a trademark to offer and sell goods.

Also, you can use the (service mark) symbol when you are using a trademark to provide services for others. However, the is the most recognizable one and you can opt to use the symbol instead.

Registered Trademark Symbol
Registered Trademark Symbol

Most importantly, the ® symbol is exclusively reserved for trademarks that are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Actually, it is a violation of US federal law to use the ® symbol when your trademark is not registered at the USPTO.

Finally, you now know the difference between the copyright and trademark symbols as well as the proper way to use them. Use them and protect your intellectual property.