Names, titles, and short phrases or expressions are not subject to copyright protection.
Even if a name, title, or short phrase is novel or distinctive or if it lends itself to a play on words, it cannot be protected by copyright. The Copyright Office cannot register claims to exclusive rights in brief combinations of words such as:
- Names of products or services
- Names of businesses, organizations, or groups (including the name of a group of performers)
- Names of pseudonyms of individuals (including pen name or stage name)
- Titles of works
- Catchwords, catchphrases, mottoes, slogans, or short advertising expressions
- Mere listings of ingredients, as in recipes, labels, or formulas. When a recipe or formula is accompanied by explanation or directions, the text directions may be copyrightable, but the recipe or formula itself remains uncopyrightable.
Protection under Trademark or Unfair Competition Laws
Some brand names, trade names, slogans, and phrases may be entitled to protection under the general rules of law relating to unfair competition, or they may be entitled to protection and registration under the provisions of state or federal trademark laws. The federal trademark statute covers trademarks and service marks—those words, phrases, symbols, or designs that identify the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguish them from those of others. The Copyright Office has no role in these matters.
Copyright protection under the copyright code (title 17, section 102, U. S. Code) extends only to “original works of authorship.” The statute states clearly that ideas and concepts cannot be protected by copyright. To be protected by copyright, a work must contain at least a certain minimum amount of authorship in the form of original literary, musical, pictorial, or graphic expression. Names, titles, and other short phrases do not meet these requirements.