Patents, copyrights and trademarks are different from each other and each one serves a different purpose. All three, nonetheless, are forms of intellectual property (IP) protection that every individual with an invention, an idea, or a trademark should seriously consider.
Patents Are For Inventions
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues patents, the grant of property rights to an inventor. In general, a new patent has a term of 20 years from the date when its application for a patent was filed in the United States. In special cases, however, the term starts from the date an earlier related application was filed but the maintenance fees must be updated. Under certain circumstances, the patent holder can apply for patent term adjustments or extensions.
The patents filed with the USPTO are only effective within the United States as well as to its possessions and territories. Many, if not most, inventors then apply patents for their inventions in an international body to protect their inventions in certain jurisdictions.
The property rights conferred by a patent include “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the item covered in the United States, as well as from “importing” it into the United States. Keep in mind that what’s actually granted isn’t the right to make, use, sell, offer for sale, or import the item but the right to exclude others from doing so.
Trademarks Are for Words and Others
A trademark refers to a name, word, symbol or device used in trading products to indicate their source and to distinguish them from others. A servicemark is similar to a trademark but it’s used to distinguish the origin or source of a service, not a product. In most cases, a servicemark can also be called a trademark for convenience purposes.
Trademark rights can be used in preventing other individuals and organizations from the use of confusingly similar-looking or similar-sounding marks. But these aren’t intended to prevent others from manufacturing, selling and offering to sell the same products and/or services. For example, McDonald’s has a trademark so it has exclusive use to the brand and its related images but it doesn’t have the right to prevent KFC, Wendy’s and Five Guys to sell burgers, fries and shakes.
Copyrights Are for Original Works of Authorship
Copyrights are granted to authors or creators of “original works of authorship” that include but aren’t limited to literary, intellectual, musical, dramatic, and artistic works, both unpublished and published. Under the 1976 Copyright Act, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to his or her work, which can include reproduction of the copyrighted work, distribution of its copies, performance of the work in a public venue, preparation of derivative works, and display of the work publicly.