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[_] Trademarks

rw at rw at
Wed Dec 30 15:41:20 GMT 2009


Useful links have already been posted - but as I get to deal in this area a
fair bit, I'll throw my tuppence in too.

A trademark identifies a legal entity (e.g. a company). It doesn't need to
be registered. If you can show that you've been using a particular mark
before anyone else, then its yours and you can stop other people and
companies using it. However, to make it easier to prove, you can register a
trademark. A trademark usually comprises a graphical logo design or a
phrase. You can stick a little "TM" next to the trademark you've come up
with to indicate that you are asserting your exclusive right to use it as a
trademark. If you register the mark, you can use a little "R" in a circle

A patent protects the design of an invention - usually an actual thing or a
process. E.g. the design of a new battery could be patented. A process for
making a new type of glue could be patented. Usually, processes such as
business processes cannot be patented but you can always give it a go. I
believe you must register an invention to have any sort of protection - but
I'm not 100% sure on that bit. I'm also not sure what happens if two people
independently come up with the same invention.

Copyright is an automatic right that you have when you create something
written or a picture - e.g. write a book, draw a picture, take a photo in a
public place. Software counts as a written work like a book. You don't have
to print the code out. The legal protection you get is automatic. If
someone copies your code and uses it, you can kick their ass. The
difficulty yet again is how you prove that you wrote it first. And that's
where printing the code and sending it to yourself comes in. Or better
still, print it out or copy it to a CD and seal it in an envelope which you
then give to a lawyer to keep safe. They will give you written confirmation
of the date on which the package was sealed - thus proving, if necessary,
that you had written the code before that date. There are other agencies
that allow you to formally register a work - again the purpose being to
help you prove when you produced it.

So generally speaking, the code for a web site or a bit of software is
protected automatically by copyright not a trademark or patent. And you
don't need to register anything. As soon as you write the code and save it
to disk, its yours and protected under copyright. The grey area is when you
want to protect a "process" - e.g. the steps required to share information
with friends in a new type of social networking web site. The story you
linked to regarding the mobile social networking patent was about a new
device rather than software from what I could tell, so a patent was more
relevant. I wasn't sure from your original post whether you meant that you
wanted to protect the code for the web site (copyright), a brand
(trademark), or the processes used to perform some action on the web site
(possibly a patent).

Hope this helps. I'm not a lawyer so if there's a lot at stake, I'd get
someone who really knows what they're talking about to check out my


Original Message:
From: Thomas Buckley-Houston tom at
Date: Wed, 30 Dec 2009 11:53:07 +0000
To: underscore at
Subject: Re: [_] Trademarks

Great response Mr. Dennys! Thanks :)

> Anyhow, Do you mean Patent, Design, Copyright or Trademark?

Mostly I'm thinking of Trademarking, but that's only because I look at
Twitter/Facebook/Flickr and see that there's loads of clones, so assumed
that the best protection is just being bloody good at what you do. Mind you
did you hear about the Microsoft-Plurk scandal in China unbelievable! That's quite extreme but is that
the kind of thing that
Patents and Copyrights can protect against? Or was it so blatant a rip-off
that Plurk didn't need to fall back on the law?

Just to get it clear in my head the difference between Patent and Copyright,
what in your opinion do you think Twitter might have Copyrighted and what
might have they Patented?

I know that Patents are registered in multiple countries, is that common
practice for Copyrights too? Should I sensibly be looking to get
Trademarks/Copyrights/Patents in multiple countries, or maybe just here and
the USA, or will just UK registration be enough in most cases?

> But what happens when some guy in a bedroom in mongolia rips off your
> Spend thousands chasing him? or move on to the next project? You might
> want to keep rolling out the apps and spread your risk.

I think that's a good point, I understand that all this legal stuff doesn't
make you invincible!

Thanks again.
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