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AMA Knoxville brings together marketing minds from Knoxville and surrounding counties for professional development, networking, and educational opportunities. The chapter also invests in future marketers by awarding scholarships to marketing students at the University of Tennessee with our Eagle Endowment. Holly recognized the AMA board of directors, volunteers, and annual sponsors (Slamdot, Colby’s Photography, Larson SMB Consulting, and HumblePod) who make these events possible.

About the Presenter

Paul A. Forsyth is a patent attorney with Pitts & Lake, PC, a law firm in Knoxville, Tennessee that focuses on intellectual property law. Paul assists and advises clients in all aspects of protecting their intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. He earned his B.S. in Chemistry from Duke University in 2004 and his law degree from the University of Tennessee in 2007.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property can come in a variety of forms including trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and patents. Put simply, IP encompasses any creation or innovation by a company that is creative and intangible. There are a myriad of laws and regulations in place to protect and maintain the integrity of each company’s intellectual property. Two of the most important protections for creatives, which we’ll discuss below, are trademarks and copyrights.


The goal of a trademark is to protect your “mark” (for instance, your logo) and your brand. A trademark can be defined as any word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of words, phrases, symbols, or designs that identify and distinguish the sources of goods of one party from those of others and prevent confusion in the marketplace. Trademarked graphics and terms are commonly denoted with a ™ or ® symbol (depending on registration status.)

The ability to register a trademark and keep it protected lies in the strength of the word or mark you’re hoping to protect. The most generic brand names (like Bread Company, for example) are not typically eligible for trademark protection due to the broad nature of those words. You can strengthen your protection by keeping your brand’s name and logo descriptive, suggestive, arbitrary, and fanciful. 

To register a trademark with the US Patent & Trademark Office, you’ll need to prove that your prospective trademark is being used in commerce and that it has a secondary meaning in the minds of consumers (not merely descriptive of goods/services). If approved, your registered trademark status will prevent others from using confusingly similar marks on related goods or services for 10 years from the date of registration. You’ll also be able to apply for unlimited 10-year renewals with continued use of the mark.

With this protection, you’ll be able to bring action in federal court against those who infringe on your trademark, obtain foreign registration of your trademark using your U.S. Status as a basis, and prevent the importation of counterfeit or infringing products at the border.


Copyrights are another form of protection for intellectual property, but with a very different purpose than trademarks. A copyright is intended to protect original works of authorship and the expression of an idea (as opposed to the idea itself.) When registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, you must simply provide the expression of work fixed in a tangible form for review.

If approved, your copyright will exclude others from copying or using this form of expression as their own for a period of time. That period is typically the life of the author plus 70 years but, in situations where work-for-hire is being copyrighted, the period is the shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation. Once the term of a copyright is up, that piece of work enters the public domain.

Examples of common business projects that might merit copyright protection include:

  • Literature, music, and art
  • Products which are purely decorative in nature
  • Instruction manuals and product packaging
  • Artwork and/or literature associated with marketing materials
  • Three-dimensional displays                                                 

With protection from a copyright, the owner will have exclusive access to reproduce the work, create derivative works based on the original, distribute copies of the works to the public, perform the work publicly, display the work publicly, and give authorization to others to do the same.

No matter how you choose to protect your work, it’s important as a creative to protect the work you create to the best of your ability. In most cases, a trademark or copyright will provide the protection you need against copycats and unauthorized reproductions on your original work or unique brand. 

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