Many companies would like to design graphic works which are related to their industries or products and etc., in promotion or marketing. In order to prohibit others to imitate, many companies tend to apply for the registered trademark for those graphic works. However, for those graphic works which meet the requirements of the “Copyright Law”, it is recommended to file such graphic works for copyright registration in advance or simultaneously.
The main reason is that compared with the trademark registration, the copyright registration has the following advantages.
First, the trademark application period is longer, so the graphic works might be used or imitated by others during the application period. However, the copyright registration is much faster, normally the registration would take 1 month, or even less if it is an expedited application. In addition, there is no substantive examination in the copyright registration procedure, which could save time as well.
Second, a trademark registration requires a specific trademark category. Normally, a company would not apply for a trademark registration for all categories, because the cost is expensive, and if the company fails to use such registered trademarks within 3 years, those trademarks might be cancelled. Therefore, other parties could apply for other categories with the same or similar graphic works. However, if the graphic works has been registered for copyright, then the right owner could apply to revoke others’ application to register the same graphic works as a registered trademark, in accordance with Article 31 of the “Trademark Law”, which prescribes that the prior rights of others may not be harmed… (Note: The “Trademark Review and Trial Standards” clearly stipulates that the “prior rights” include copyright.)
Third, according to the “Trademark Law”, a registered trademark could be revoked if it has not been used for three consecutive years without good reasons. But the copyright registration would not be revoked.
In view of the above, the copyright registration is also a good choice for the IP protection to graphic works.
However, it should be noted that the “Copyright Law” has set requirements for graphic works. According to the “Regulations on the Implementation of the Copyright Law”, there are 2 graphic categories, “Works of Fine Arts” and “Graphic Works”. “Works of Fine Arts” refers to two or three dimensional works of the plastic arts created in lines, colours or other media which impart aesthetic effect, such as paintings, works of calligraphy and sculptures; “Graphic Works” refers to such works as drawings of engineering designs and product designs for the purpose of actual construction and manufacturing, and as maps and sketches showing geographical phenomena and demonstrating the fundamentals or the structure of a thing or an object. The graphic works mentioned above belongs to “Works of Fine Arts”. Because the works protected by the “Copyright Law” requires its originality, the lines, colours, layouts and etc., in the graphic works shall has its originality. Otherwise, even though the substantive examination is not required, it still has the possibility to be revoked, and it is difficult to get the support of the court while claiming for a copyright infringement.
It shall be noted that each right protection has its own limitation. It seems that the copyright protection is wider than the registration trademark protection. But the substantive examination is not applied, if a party deliberately modify the graphic works slightly, and register the modified one for copyright, then it is still difficult for the right owner to protect its graphic works.