What You Need To Know About Design Copyright? - Drishti Law

As a designer, you know this better the more good you are at your profession, the more protection that work requires. This feels like a disadvantage at times because, in a world where infringing another person’s hard work has become as easy as breathing, you have to be always on alert from such violators. The moment you release your work to the world, the risk of infringement gets attached to it right away. However, this is where copyright laws play their role. 

In this blog, we will guide you through the complete copyright registration process so that all your questions regarding copyrighting a design are answered, and you can carry on with your actual work (of designing) with a carefree mind. 

Copyright: an overview

Copyright protects original creative works, such as books, music, and artwork, from being copied, reproduced, or distributed without authorization from the creator. 

In the U.S., an original work automatically receives copyright protection the moment it is created i.e., you do not have to formally register it with the United States Copyright Office to claim its authorship. However, legal experts always advise getting the work registered to avail complete protection from the law. Much of the remedies present in the copyright law hinge on the registration factor. 

To avail the said protection, you will first need to file out the registration in the category your design falls in. For instance, a photographer will evidently be registering their work in the ‘Photography’ category. However, before we delve into the process, it’s important to know how can your design be eligible for protection. 

Is your Original Design Eligible for Copyright?

It might appear as easy to right away apply for copyright, however, you can’t proceed to this stage without first ascertaining whether your design is eligible to be granted rights under the Copyright Act or not. 

The requirements are quite straightforward. You just have to ensure that:

  1. Your design is present on a tangible medium. If you have created a design, then it must be present in a physical form, such as a shoe design can be copyrighted through the shoes themselves. 
  2. The design should be your original work of art. It means that you cannot make variations to someone else’s design and call it your own. Doing so would undoubtedly count as copyright infringement

Copyright for Designs

If your design is fulfilling the aforementioned criteria, you are good to go for registering your copyright application. However, some designs overlap between the different categories of intellectual property protection. In this section, we shall discuss the two major types of designs which are comparatively more complicated than the other types when it comes to registering their intellectual property rights. 

Copyrighting a Logo Design

As the name informs, logo designs are of such nature that they can acquire both copyright and trademark rights. Hence, it is a common practice amongst businesses to register their logos in both categories and as a result, they receive dual protection from the law. 

If you have any questions regarding the differences between the forms of IP protection, the next section will help you with that.

Using the route of Trademark

When deciding whether to copyright or trademark a logo, businesses usually opt for the latter option. And this is usually done for a solid reason. 

A trademark is any symbol, logo, word, slogan or design which represents and differentiates the identity of one business within the marketplace from the other. Logos inherently serve as an identity for businesses therefore they are automatically categorized as such. The biggest advantage of going down this route is that a trademark covers every aspect, from the words in the logo to its design and even its typeface and colours, unlike a copyright. 

However, that is not to say that copyright is a disadvantageous option, rather, trademark has some limitations which are covered by copyright only. The major and main limitation of a trademark is that its sole purpose is to hinder confusion in the market arising out of identical or similar marks. Copyright, on the contrary, protects your design from unlicensed usage of the same outside the scope of fair use. In other words, the protection afforded by copyright law is comparatively broader.  

So the question is: which route to adopt?

The answer to the query is to opt for copyright protection for logo design. Consider your design as something just like a photograph or painting, and hence covered under copyright, while consider registering it as a trademark only if you wish to acquire dual protection. However, a copyrighted work rarely needs that extra layer of protection since copyright infringement of logos does not occur much.

Copyrighting a Graphic Design

Graphic designs are another type of design that entails complications in the registration process. Copyrighting this type of design is difficult because it is neither a form of symbol, logo, or title nor it is present on a tangible medium – it is merely a form of idea, something which is not protected by copyright.

Therefore, if you are looking to copyright a graphic design, you need to first fix it on a tangible (physical) medium. 

Registration Process with the United States Copyright Office

As stated above, you don’t need to have official registration. You have the copyright ownership for your design the moment you create it. However, it’s best to be prepared beforehand to avoid any legal repercussions in future. 

To copyright your design, you need to: 

  1. Fill out the copyright application form. The form is present on the copyright website
  2. Pay the filing fees for paper and online applications. 
  3. Attach the copies of your work with the application. 

If your registration is approved by the copyright office, you will be issued the registration certificate by the U.S. Copyright Office and a public record of the copyright is created.

In the U.S., copyright protection lasts for the lifetime of the creator with 70 additional years after death.

Final Word

Protecting your work right in the beginning is the best way to save yourself from unnecessary hassles in future. Remember, it doesn’t take time for an infringer to violate your rights, and if they do, you would land in a tight spot as you will have to first register the work and then take any legal action against the infringers. 

Seek legal protection today for your design by booking a free consultation today with Drishti Law and learning how our experienced principal attorney can help you register and safeguard your copyright.