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Protect your brand identity through trademark and copyright laws

What's in a name?

Everything, if you're a business. What isn't in your name is probably in your logo, slogans and all the original social media campaigns you have created and attached to your brand.

Since consumers today are more conscious than ever of brand identity, it's important that you do everything you can to protect what you've worked so hard to create. That includes making use of trademark and copyright laws to protect your company name, logo, labels and other original works like blogs and videos.

Trademark and copyright laws are both designed to protect intellectual property from being used without the permission of its author or source.

In specific, trademarks are used to protect the images, names, colors, symbols and sounds used in your logo and on your labels. For example, the Ronald McDonald character used by McDonald's is a trademarked character. So are Disney's Mickey Mouse and Warner Brothers' Bugs Bunny.

On the other hand, art videos, commercials and written works can be protected from misuse using a copyright. For example, designer handbags are often duplicated by imitations that use knock-off labels designed to appear almost (or exactly) the same as the real thing. The misuse of another company's label is a copyright infringement.

While it's fairly easy to gain a copyright or trademark over your original work, it's not as easy to protect them once they're in use -- especially if someone wants to try to make a quick buck off your brand identity and they think they can get away with it.

Neither the Office of Patents and Trademarks nor the Copyright Office will enforce your trademark for you -- you have to take those steps for yourself. In fact, if you fail to do it, you can end up losing those valuable protections. For example, "trampoline" was once a trademarked brand name for a "rebound tumbler." Today, trampoline is a generic term.

The most important thing that you can do to legally protect your business and brand identity is to make sure that you take prompt action against anyone using your trademarked or copyrighted work as his or her own. You can generally start with a cease and desist letter. If that doesn't work, you may have to pursue more aggressive legal options.

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