Need Help with Copyrights?

Our friend Justin Eldreth put together this simple FAQ as a guideline for many of our clients. As always, it’s best to contact a professional attorney for any specific questions you have related to your business. The following information should be used as a guide and should be reviewed by a professional that is experienced in the specific laws of your area.

What is the difference between copyright and trademark?

Copyright law protects the original works that you create, so long as they are original and creative. This could be almost any work of art that you can fix in a tangible medium. Trademark law protects the words or logos that you use to identify your goods or services, so long as your mark fits into certain categories and meets certain requirements so as to not be labeled “generic” or “descriptive.”

What types of items can I copyright?

You can copyright any original creations that you have fixed into a tangible medium. This could be almost any work of art, from a drawing to a sound recording. In other words, it has to be more than an idea. If you found this FAQ on the TigerHive site, I suspect you are concerned about the design that you are printing. In general, those images and the design both are copyrightable. But you need to make sure that you own the source material before you incorporate them into a design.

Do I have to register a copyright with any federal departments?

No. A copyright exists from the moment the work is created. So even if you don’t register, you have some protection over your works. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. In addition, a federal registration is a much stronger protection and you may be able to get more damages with a federal registration. The bottom line is that you don’t have to register, but you should.

What is a "poor man's copyright"?

This is a term used to describe the various methods that individuals have made up in hopes of bypassing the registration process. All of them are pitfalls. There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration. In other words, you have to follow the prescribes methods of registering a copyright.

Do I have to register a trademark with any federal departments?

No. Believe it or not, there are common law trademarks. So even if you don’t register, you may have some protection over your brand identity. But, you should know that a federal registration is a much stronger protection. And a federally registered trademark may trump an unregistered mark in some situations. Just like in copyright, the bottom line is that you don’t have to register, but you should.

Do I need an attorney to register my copyrights and trademarks?

No. Registration is open to anyone who would like to register. But, the application process is complicated in both areas of law, and especially tricky in trademark. Before you spend your money on application fees for works and marks that you cannot protect or before you fill out the wrong application, you should consult an attorney.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to call my office to make an appointment for a free consultation.

Justin Eldreth, Esq.
Klish and Eldreth, PLLC
S. Saint Marys Street
Suite C
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 833.5322


Will TigerHive be responsible for copyright concerns related to its creative work for my company?

No. It is expressly understood that TigerHive has no obligation to perform any common law, state or federal trademark searches and it shall be the client’s sole responsibility to conduct the necessary searches prior to selection and use of any design concepts created or presented by our team.

If you think copyright or trademark issues will need to be addressed for your business model, contact an attorney prior to starting any design process.