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Trademark Vs Copyright – What’s the Difference? And When I Decide Which I Need, Do I Need a Lawyer?

Over the years many clients have asked me the same question. I have a new business, which I plan to build and grow so I want to protect my brand identity, the goodwill associated with that. So, do I get a copyright or a trademark on my name, or slogan or logo? What does each protect? What are the differences between trademark and copyright?

The answer to this question is not always an easy one, however, as we delve into the labyrinth of intellectual property there are some very important differences and some clear guidelines which help us select the appropriate vehicle for you.

Copyrights are typically related to original works of authorship, like a book or poem or screenplay, photographs, films or music (lyrics or music), while a trademark relates to brand names, slogans and logos.

Once the appropriate vehicle has been selected the most important thing to consider is the use of the proposed trademark. Users of a trademark have rights whether a trademark is registered or not. Trademark registration will give you an exclusive right to use the trademark nationwide, certain overseas rights, and a legal presumption of ownership.

However, registration of your trademark is only the start of defending your company name and goodwill. For your rights to a trademark to continue, you have to use it, protect it against infringers, and renew it. The history of trademark law is fraught with marks that lost their protection because they failed to maintain them. However, if properly maintained trademark protection can be perpetual.

An additional concern in the realm of trademark in the modern age is keyword advertising. Companies buy ads that appear in search engines, when a consumer searches for a competitors’ trademark. For example, a consumer might search for Nike and an ad for Adidas would appear, because Adidas had purchased the right to place an ad there. There continues to be a considerable amount of litigation on this subject with differing results throughout the many federal court districts.

Copyright protection affords the creators of original works protection against unauthorized use of their work. This also provides a vehicle for licensing or assignment or sale of rights to an original work. For the most part, copyright protection provides protection during the life or lives of the author(s) and an additional 70 years after the death of the final author. Publication of the work is not required to display the copyright “©” symbol, however, federal registration does afford the owner remedies not available without registration.

As you can see, with regard to the question of copyright vs. trademark there are specific reasons to select one of these over the other in an effort to protect your rights.

Ok, now you’ve decided whether I need to register a trademark or a copyright; you may be asking yourself, do I need a trademark attorney or copyright attorney to register my trademark or copyright or can I deal directly with the trademark or copyright office?

The answer, as with any such question is, always, it depends. You are not required to have a trademark attorney or copyright attorney; however, this is a question, which in reality asks, what degree of risk am I comfortable with. A medical doctor is not required to perform surgery on you; however, I would not recommend having surgery without one. Similarly, I would not recommend attempting to register a trademark or copyright without an experienced intellectual property attorney.

The process of obtaining a trademark or copyright is not simply filing some paperwork (however, this is certainly part of the application process). The trademark and copyright application process begins with an extensive search to uncover if your proposed name, logo, slogan or other proposed intellectual property is currently registered or unregistered but in use in your same industry.

Also there is the consideration that if during that name or logo search you uncover a similar trademark. Now what? Do you have to change your trademark? Can you still have your proposed trademark registered? The answer is (always): it depends. It depends on many factors.

Therefore, it is the trademark search and the ability to navigate the minefield of the application process where the skill of an experienced trademark attorney becomes the most valuable. It is his or her professional experience, which is your greatest asset during this process.

Certainly, as with anything if the cost of the service outweighs the benefits you need to determine if it is a good business decision. However, I have never, in all the years I have been practicing trademark and copyright law, had a client unhappy that they approached the protection of their most valuable business asset (their name and reputation) in a professional manner and in doing so assisted their business in reaching its full potential and ultimately an increase in revenue. I have said it many times before, brand protection pays for itself, whether by peace of mind, or by preventing your competition from trading on your goodwill or by giving you the ability to truly develop your brand identity and set you apart from your competition.

How to Prevent Falls and Slips in the Workplace

Falls and slips in the workplace is one of the biggest reasons for employer’s liability claims in the US. Over fifty percent of all liability claims are a result of slips and falls, which means that business owners need to pay careful attention to their risk assessment in order to reduce any accidents.

Workplace accidents can result in fatalities, this includes a slip over packaging tape that wasn’t picked up, in fact over six hundred workers died in 2012 as a result of falling or slipping at work.

There are a number of steps a business owner can take to prevent these accidents from happening, carrying out a thorough risk assessment is one of them. A risk assessment takes time to complete, but gives the business owner a workable document to determine what areas of the property have safety concerns.

Based on a risk assessment a company can also write guidelines for staff members to reduce any accidents occurring in the future. Of course accidents are what they are, there is no strict prevention, but efforts can be made to reduce the number of accidents taking place in the workplace throughout the US each year.

Cracks in the floor, broken tiles and lifting flooring can all result in a nasty accident. A slight fall in the office building can leave an employee off work for months, claiming against the company for medical expenses, loss of income and even mental distress caused by the accident.

Broken legs, broken arms, concussions and even death have been seen as a result of a slip or fall from poorly maintained floors. Spending money on the flooring of the building and ensuring the flooring is in excellent condition, maybe combining high slip areas with anti skid tape, can all help reduce the risk of these unnecessary accidents.

Another essential step is to light poor visibility areas to ensure that staff members can see the walkways clearly, this includes both inside and outside the building. Walkways leading to the car park should have good lightening, especially for those winter months when employees will make their way to their vehicles in the dark.

Many accidents result from poor visibility, dark corridors, poorly lit exterior areas and dimly lit stairwells can all result in a serious accident, which in turn can result in a liability claim against the company.

It’s advisable to ensure your liability insurance is up to date and that you have adequate cover, a risk assessment, putting down anti skid tape and lighting poorly visible areas won’t guarantee that accidents won’t happen.

Over and above floor maintenance, you need to ensure your staff follow strict housekeeping rules. If something is spilled on the floor, it should be cleaned quickly, marking the area as wet to ensure other staff members are aware, so they don’t slip on the slippery and wet surface. Packaging tape dropped on the floor or boxes should be picked up immediately to reduce the risk of a staff member getting their leg tangled in the tap, falling and breaking a bone.

Rules should be set in place to reduce these housekeeping mistakes, they can be included in the general staff guidelines, a way to reduce workplace accidents from taking place.

Use anti skid tape is slippery and dangerous areas. This anti skid tape can be used on stairs, in high traffic areas and throughout the workplace to reduce the risk of staff falling and injuring themselves, again resulting in a claim against the company.

The anti skid tape is available in a choice of colors to blend in with your company color scheme, so it doesn’t look unsightly. Instead the anti skid tape offers another solution to reducing workplace accidents.

Detroit Travel – A Walking Tour of Brush Park and Dinner at the Ren Cen

After having learned so much about architecture during my morning walking tour of downtown Detroit, we embarked on another urban discovery: a walking tour through Brush Park, one of Detroit’s historic residential areas with a location very close to downtown. Bob Goldsmith, our local expert from Detroit Tour Connections, met us at 97 Winder Street, location of a recently restored bed and breakfast, and started explaining the history of the area to us.

In its Victorian heydays, Brush Park was an affluent neighbourhoood with numerous mansions for upper-class families. The area’s beginnings date back to the 1850s when local entrepreneur Edmund Brush started subdividing his family’s property. Construction activity peaked in the 1870s and 1880s, and in 1906 one of the last mansions to be built was renowned Detroit architect Albert Kahn’s personal residence.

The neighbourhood stretches for 24 city blocks and originally included about 300 homes of which 70 were Victorian mansions. As transportation and the use of the automobile expanded in the early 20th century, people started moving further afield, and the Brush Park area started on a long road of decline. Many of the houses were subdivided into smaller apartments during the Great Depression, and during the post-war years numerous houses were abandoned altogether and fell into disrepair.

Many of the abandoned mansions started to attract criminal activity and in many cases the city moved to demolish the homes, leaving large empty lots of land behind. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “urban prairie.” At the turn of the new millennium, less than half of the original structures were still standing in Brush Park.

Bob, a true Detroit connoisseur, came equipped with a series of articles about the various historic structures, many of which outlined the new owners’ story and the cost and extent of the renovation effort. Brush Park was truly an interesting experience, with its mix of beautifully restored mansions that might sit right next to a burned out ruin which in turn might be located adjacent to an empty plot of land where one of the former buildings had been taken down.

The highlight of our tour was when a local resident invited us to come inside her apartment: Lisa Rush, a friend of Bob’s, recently bought a renovated studio apartment in one of the historic apartment buildings in Brush Park. As we were walking through the neighbourhood, Bob called her and she invited us in to show us the apartment. She even offered us to use her washroom if we needed to.

Lisa’s apartment is a sleek studio with a living room area and features a kitchen with an island and a bedroom area that are all aligned in a long rectangular space. Off to the side was the bathroom. Lisa is a member of Preservation Wayne, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and protecting Detroit’s defining neighbourhoods and structures. Lisa was just celebrating with a few friends, and I was amazed that she would invite three complete out-of-town strangers into her beautiful apartment. This local connection was definitely unexpected and totally exceeded my standard expectations of hospitality.

Walking further north on John R Street we turned left and walked by a mansion that is owned by a University of Windsor professor who restored a beautiful Victorian era home that dates back to 1870. Similar to Lisa, this professor has also invited Bob’s tour participants into his personal home to show them his art collection. A welcoming attitude like this where locals open their private homes to complete strangers would probably be unheard of in many other places.

We also saw two churches, right next to one another, one boarded up and out of use for several years now while the neighouring church was a fully intact impressive Richardson Romanesque sandstone building. A few steps further up the street is the Bonstelle Theater, which was originally designed by Detroit architect Albert Kahn as Temple Beth El in 1903. Historic buildings abound in this area of Detroit.

On our way south on Woodward we stopped at the upscale Zaccaro’s Market at 3100 Woodward Avenue which offers a variety of delicatessen and fresh, organic foods. Detroit has a marked absence of large supermarkets, so stores like Zaccaro’s fill in an important need for local residents.

Our tour was slowly coming to an end and Bob took us back to Winder Street. This walking tour had certainly started to introduce us to some of the historic and socio-economic issues of Detroit as well as some of the recent rejuvenation efforts that have happened over the last 10 years.

After a coffee inside the stunning Guardian Building and a brief rest at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel my travel partner Linda and I were ready to head out again and decided to explore another Detroit landmark: the Detroit People Mover. This 3 mile (4.5 km) long transportation system hauls people through downtown Detroit on a single-track one-way loop. It only moves in one direction (at present in a clockwise direction) and encompasses 13 stations throughout the central business district.

We entered the People Mover at the Renaissance Center, and the two rail cars were absolutely packed due to a Detroit Red Wings game. Detroit is a big sports town, with six professional sports teams, the most well-known of which include the Detroit Tigers (baseball), the Detroit Lions (football) and the Detroit Red Wings (hockey). Fans dressed in red hockey jerseys were entering the vehicle, and things were getting crowded. For tourists, the heavily subsidized People Mover transportation system is a great way to get around the downtown area and even do some sightseeing from the elevated vantage point. At a cost of only $0.50 per ride it is an absolutely affordable and fun way to see different parts of the city.

The entire People Mover loop took us about 20 minutes and brought us right back to where we started. We went inside the Renaissance Centre, the world headquarters of General Motors since 1996. The seven building complex includes the 73-storey Marriot Hotel which is the highest hotel in the Western hemisphere. The top of the Marriott is crowned by the Coach Insignia restaurant, which is also the largest rooftop restaurant.

We admired the large GM showroom on the main floor as well as the five-storey Wintergarden, an airy glass enclosed space which provides access to the Riverfront and a great view of Windsor across the river. Now hungry from all our explorations we headed straight to the rooftop to see if we could have dinner at Coach Insignia.

Although the restaurant was packed and we did not have a reservation, we were able to get a seat by the bar and were fascinated by the gorgeous view over the Detroit River, Windsor and the Detroit business district. Belle Isle was visible in the north and the Ambassador Bridge dominated the view in the south. We enjoyed a tasty series of vegetarian appetizers of which the asparagus with sauce hollandaise and the Caesar salad truly stood out.

We spent a fabulous evening at the top of Detroit and enjoyed the slowly sinking sun and the golden glow it cast over the city. Tired and satisfied after a long day of explorations we headed back for a good night’s sleep to the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. We definitely needed to rest up since tomorrow our discoveries would take us to The Henry Ford Museum and the recently renovated Detroit Institute of Arts.