You finally did it:
You’ve come up with the perfect name, and now you’ve got a badass logo.
How can you legally protect that logo and help make sure that no one steals it? Or if they do, how can you make sure you can use the law to go after them?
Let’s get to it!
What is copyright?
We should start at the beginning:
“Copyright” is actually a series of rights that the author of an original creative work. Rather than bore you with a book-length post about copyright, I’ll give you the greatest hits:
- Copyright protect creative works like artwork (including your logo), photographs, music composition, sound recordings, software code, and even dance choreography
- Copyright DOESN’T protect ideas, processes, facts, and other intangible things.
- This separation between ideas and the expression of their ideas is a huge deal in copyright. The idea for the story is not protected, but how you specifically expressed those ideas in writing is protected by copyright law.
- Some of the exclusive rights you get under copyright include the right to make copies, to create “derivative works” (think sequels and spinoffs), to publicly perform or display, and to do things like translations and adaptations to other media
Also, copyright lasts for a long time.
Specifically, if you’re an individual author, it will last for your lifetime plus 70 years. If you’ve done the work for someone else as a “work made for hire,” it will last for either 95 years from the date it’s first published, or 120 years from the date it was created (whichever is shorter).
Why should you register your copyrights?
So here’s the deal:
Once you create something that’s eligible for copyright protection, it’s automatically protected by copyright law.
That’s a good thing.
The 2 requirements are:
- That it’s an original creative work (the bar for this is very low)
- That it is “fixed” in a “tangible medium” – this means, essentially, that it’s on paper or saved as a digital file, a video, or an audio recording. Things that are just existing inside your brain don’t count.
Now, you’ve got copyright rights – what can you do with it?
Not much, actually.
That’s because suing someone requires that you’ve registered your copyright with the federal government. This registration has a few important benefits:
- It puts the public on notice that you’re claiming rights over that particular thing
- It serves as evidence that your copyright rights are valid (if you register within 5 years of publication)
- It allows you to take advantage of something called “statutory damages” if you register within 90 days of publication. This means that you don’t have to prove how much you’ve been damages when filing a lawsuit, which can come in handy in many cases. It also allows you to seek payment for your attorney’s fees and costs from the infringer!
All of these advantages make whether to file a copyright registration for your logo an easy choice.
Especially with the low cost involved!
Let’s take a look at that now:
How much does it cost to copyright a logo?
The filing fee for a copyright registration varies. It’s a lot cheaper than filing a trademark application, at the very least.
Here are the details:
- For most applications, the fee is $55 to register a copyright
- In cases where there is only one author who is the one who actually created the work, the fee is only $35
That lower fee most likely applies to a logo made for a sole proprietorship business. But if you’ve created the logo on behalf of an LLC you own or work for, the higher fee is going to be applicable.
Other than that, the only other costs are for the lawyer who files it for you.
Can’t you just do it yourself?
Yes, you can do it yourself, but the process can be a bit confusing. There’s a good amount of jargon and choices you need to make.
Starting with the type of application you’re filing in the first place. If you choose the wrong one, that could invalidate the whole application.
The process has a number of other potential wrinkles, as well.
It usually comes down to a balance – you need to weigh how much time it would take for you to understand everything and learn the process, versus just paying someone to take care of it for you.
Attorneys generally charge a couple hundred dollars to file a copyright registration in your behalf.
In my law practice, I charge a flat fee of $150 to do it for you (not including the filing fee). If you’re interested, you can click here to contact me and we can get started.