IP: Copyright and Trademark

Companies use copyright and trademark protection for works of authorship such as music, writings, art, and forms (the copyright), and any words, names, and symbols that indicate the source of the prod­uct, such as a logo (the trademark). In the United States, copyright protection lasts as long as the author is alive, plus 70 years. For corpo­rate authorship, it lasts 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. Many core products, such as books and music, can only be copyrighted. The trademark, on the other hand, can be very important for brand protection, and as long as you use it and maintain it, you can renew its protection indefinitely. But it must be maintained. If it becomes a generic word, it is no longer a trademark. Nylon and aspirin, for instance, were once trademarks but are now part of the normal English lexicon. So P&G does not real­ly want the public to go too far in making a verb out of Swiffer, because then it would not be able to keep its trademark. A way to avoid loss of a trademark is to create two names for a new product—a trademarked name and a generic name, such as Nutrasweet (trademark) and aspar­tame (generic). The trademarked Swiffer logo, sweeping across the product’s package, creates a memorable connection between the product and the person who purchased it. For many product design­ers, the importance of trademarks is not well recognized. Similarly, for many engineering-focused companies, the importance of brand is also undervalued, as is discussed further later.