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Wondering how copyrights and trademarks work for Houston channel letter signs and other business signage? You can copyright and trademark signs and signage design elements, but you need to know the rules!

How Can I Copyright My Company’s Houston Channel Letter Signs?

red Houston channel letter sign Peli Peli restaurant with logo
Once unique Houston channel letter signs are manufactured, they might be automatically copyrighted.

If you’re planning to create new signs, you may want to protect them with a copyright your business sign. This is to help protect your brand and stop others from using something similar. Naturally, if you’re spending time and money designing new signs, you want to protect them!

Here’s the good news: Your signage probably gets automatic copyright protections. As soon as it’s in physical form, the copyright likely stands. 

In the past, you registered copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office and had to include the copyright symbol on your work. However, in 1989, the laws changed so that’s no longer the case.

Nowadays, copyright law automatically protects pretty much every distinct work, like art, literature, and signage.

Make Sure Everything is Unique

Making sure the design is unique and creative is the key to copyrighting your Houston channel letter signs. Otherwise, signs may not qualify for copyright protections. 

For example, let’s say your company name is a generic, common word like “the.” Your logo is simply the word “the” typed in a standard font, like Times New Roman, which you’ve put on your business sign. 

Copyrights probably don’t apply to this sign. That’s because it’s not distinct or unique. You likely wouldn’t win a copyright infringement case against another company who uses the word “the” in the same font on their signs.

What is a Copyright? 

Most people have some idea of what a copyright is, but as a quick and easy definition, a copyright is the legal right to use and copy a unique creation. For example, a distinct logo. If you designed the logo (or purchased the rights to it from a designer), then you own that logo and no one else can use it without your permission. That means they can’t print it, put it on their website, put it on their signage, or otherwise copy it. 

Copyrights only apply to material creations, like your signs or even the computer graphic of the design. It doesn’t apply to ideas or concepts. For example, saying, “I think I’m going to put a cat next to a typewriter on my Houston wall signs,” doesn’t mean you have a copyright on all signs that have cats next to typewriters on them. Also, even if you create that sign, you don’t own the concept of a cat sitting next to a typewriter, just the specific art on your sign. 

Copyrights also don’t apply to things like names, short phrases, or slogans. They’re there to help protect authors’ works, like books, arts, or photographs.

What About Copyrighting My Company’s Name?

So, how might you protect the other elements on your Houston channel letter signs, like your company’s name or slogan? This is where trademarks come in. 

Trademarks help protect distinct characteristics of your brand, products, or services. It’s a little different than a copyright. 

For example, Apple Inc. owns a registered trademark on Apple®. So, if another technology company started using that name (or that distinct logo), they could sue that company. However, that doesn’t mean they own the word and we’ll have to find a different name for the fruit.

Trademarks can help protect your company’s name. They can also protect typographic logos (which are just your company’s name or initials in a particular font and color scheme). However, once again, these must be unique and distinguish you from other businesses.

Avoiding Copyright Infringement when Designing Houston Channel Letter Signs

If you’re designing your Houston channel letter signs from scratch without your own copyrighted or trademarked materials, take steps to avoid copyright and trademark infringement. Remember, these are criminal offenses and can land you with fines and other legal troubles. 

If you need a new logo for your company, working with our signage design experts can help you avoid potential copyright or trademark infringements. We can create a brand new logo for your signage, which means you get a unique, non-copyrighted logo. After we do this, we sign over copyright rights to you so you can use the same logo on your Houston outdoor signs, advertisements, printed materials, and other things for branding. 

Don’t Use Other People’s Images in Your Logo!

If you’re planning on designing your own logo or sign, then it’s generally best to start with a pencil and paper and draw a completely new image. Finding an image on the internet and placing it on your sign or logo is a no-go. 

Now, even if you find “free” images or clip art, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re using them legally. What matters here is the type of licensing for those free, or even paid, images. For example, you can generally use public domain images any way you choose. You can use them commercially, alter them, etc.

However, many other free images you might find may have restrictions like “for personal use only” or “no alterations allowed.” You could land your business in hot water if you don’t follow these rules.

Also, even if you’re in the clear legally, there’s a good chance your logo won’t be strictly unique to your company. As we’ve mentioned, that’s pretty important, so it makes sense to either design something from scratch or get help from a designer for your new Houston channel letter signs.

What About Fonts for My Houston Channel Letter Signs?

So, what about the fonts you choose for Houston channel letter signs? Are they protected, too? Fear not, you can probably still use the font you want.

First, we’ll need to discuss the difference between a font and a typeface. Most of us use the word “font” for any lettering that isn’t handwritten. However, a font is actually the computer file, software, or program. Fonts tell your computer how to make the lettering. Typeface, on the other hand, is the design of the lettering. 

When a computer programmer creates a font program, they can copyright their work. So, you normally need a license to use it on your computer.
However, in most cases, copyrights don’t apply to typefaces. Once we take the typeface off the computer to turn it into Houston channel letter signs, it’s no longer protected because it’s not the computer software anymore.
Just like anything, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if someone only ever uses a unique typeface in their logo (think the Coca-Cola® logo), then copyright may apply as an artistic piece. Our team can help offer guidance to help you determine which typefaces you can and can’t use for your signage.

Your One Stop for Custom Business Signage

When you need high quality signage, choose our team at 4D Signworx! We offer sign design and manufacturing services to help Houston businesses attract customers and business. We’ve been helping businesses just like yours since 1968.

As a family owned and operated business, we’re dedicated to your total satisfaction. We work with you to create extraordinary looking signs and then we manufacture them right in our own facility to ensure the highest levels of quality control. Manufacturing in our own facility also means you get your signage quicker and at lower costs than many other sign companies who subcontract the work.

Call us now at (713) 984-2010 to get started with your new sign today!