Are Titles, Names, and Logos Protected Under Copyright

Copyright and Titles

In answer to the question: Are titles, names, and logos protected under copyright?, in most cases the answer in general is No. However, it's best to break the question into parts to take a look at each item separately to see what is protected.

Purpose of Copyright

To answer the question "Are titles, names, and logos protected under copyright?" more specifically, it's important to understand first of all that copyright is designed to protect the author's creative expression but this does not usually cover everything that a writer considers intellectual property.

Titles

Have you ever looked for a specific book and discovered there is more that one book with the same title? Titles are not protected by copyright, however according to the U. S. Copyright Office, in some cases titles "may be protected as trademarks." This means that generally the text within books is protected by copyright but it does not cover the title of a book. This is the result of copyright regulations dealing with titles combined with judicial decisions that have formed current copyright laws regarding titles. These decisions give titles the same rights afforded short slogans because they don't contain "adequate expression" to receive copyright protection. One reason for this decision is that a particular title may be equally suitable for more than one author.

Names

Copyright protection of names is mixed. While the law doesn't protect things like domain names, it may protect names when they contain sufficient authorship such as names of sports teams. However, when it comes to fictional characters in your work copyright protection depends on whether or not there is "sufficient substantial similarity" between your characters and those who use the same name. To prove copyright infringement the similarities have to include similar complex characteristics other than the name. This in itself is complex, because a similarity analysis known as Scènes à Faire Doctrine does not allow for protection of material that is typical to a specific topic. Again in this case, trademarking a fictional character's name may provide the best protection.

Logos

The artistic elements of your logo will be protected by copyright. For more protection, it is best to also register your logo as a trademark because you can't take legal action regarding it as your trademark in federal court unless you've done so.

Value of Trademark

Trademark registration provides evidence of ownership of the trademark which protects:

  • Slogans
  • Logos
  • Designs

This protection includes the prohibition of others trying to cash in on the goodwill linked to an established brand. As an author it's a good idea to retain non-book rights when you sign a publishing contract so that you are the one to benefit from a trademark when it comes to merchandising. If you have questions regarding the "grant of rights" clause in your contract it is a good idea to retain a professional to represent your interests. Contracts are negotiable and it's important that you walk away with what you want from the agreement.

Trademark can also be used to protect a fictional character's name when it is used in a book title, movie, etc if it is related to a single source.

Are Titles, Names, and Logos Protected Under Copyright?

The bottom line regarding the copyright of titles, names and logos is that it is best to talk with your agent and/or legal representative to learn whether or not it may or may not be available. Visit the United States Copyright Office for more details. For the most part, copyright does not protect book titles or names. If you decide to register for a trademark it's important to note that they are issued on a first come, first serve basis. Do your research before giving your book a title to learn what is already out there. This research should include both registered and unregistered trademarks. This is a fluid market so if you find that trademark rights are available and it will be awhile before you actually are published, it's a good idea to file an intent to use federal trademark application to be sure you'll be covered.

Are Titles, Names, and Logos Protected Under Copyright