Five Things Copyright Law Does Not Protect

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You know you need intellectual property protection, but you are just not sure how to protect your band name, the family BBQ recipe, or your latest idea. The intellectual property law areas of patent, trademark and copyright are related but protect distinct areas.

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Examples of well-known trademarks include NIKE, CHANEL and ZYRTEC.  Click here to read more about trademark basics.

A patent protects ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something.

Frequently Asked Questions On Things Not Protected By Copyright

Can I copyright my domain name?

Copyright law does not protect domain names. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization that has assumed the responsibility for domain name system management, administers the assigning of domain names through accredited registers.

Can I copyright my recipe?

A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.

Note that if you have secret ingredients to a recipe that you do not wish to be revealed, you should not submit your recipe for registration, because applications and deposit copies are public records. See FL 122, Recipes. If you do have a family secret recipe, protecting the recipe as a trade secret may be your best bet. Remember, you have to keep the recipe a secret and the recipe has to bring economic value to your business.

Can I copyright the name of my band?

No. Names are not protected by copyright law.  See Copyright Circular 34 "Copyright Protection Not Available for Names, Titles, or Short Phrases". Some names may be protected under trademark law. Learn more about the basics of trademark law from Attorney Tamera Bennett.

Can I copyright a name, title, slogan, or logo?

Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. Copyright protection may be available for logo artwork that contains sufficient authorship. In some circumstances, an artistic logo may also be protected as a trademark.

Can I copyright my idea?

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work. To learn more about what is protected by a patent visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.

Click here for more frequently asked questions on the copyright process.