What Is the Difference Between a Trademark, a Copyright, and a Patent?
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Trademarks are signifiers of consumer goodwill associated with a product or service. Most trademarks are a word, a group of words, or a logo. Trademarks can be registered or (in countries that permit “common law” marks) unregistered, and can last for as long as the marks remain in use. A trademark owner can force a third party that adopts a mark that is similar enough to create consumer confusion to stop using the confusing mark.
Copyrights are the bundle of rights that protect original creative expressions. Copyright rights can exist in written text, images, sculptures, music, and more. Copyright exists automatically upon creation, and, in the United States, most new works are protected for 95 years from publication (for works created for an employer) or 120 years from creation (if unpublished), or, for works created by individuals, for the life of the creator plus 75 years. Registration may be required for some benefits, but is not required for the existence of a valid copyright. The copyright holder has a variety of exclusive rights, including the right to make and distribute copies (thus the name), the right to create derivative works (i.e. a sequel), to perform or display the copyrighted work in public, and more.
Utility patents protect useful, new (novel), non-obvious inventions. A utility patent only exists if registered, and then only after extensive examination. In the US, that examination is conducted by a patent attorney or patent agent at the US Patent & Trademark Office. If granted, the term of protection is 20 years from filing, with some adjustments due to prosecution time or other reasons. Patents give significant remedies against infringers practicing the same invention, including the opportunity for treble (triple) damages in the US.
Design patents protect novel, non-obvious, decorative, non-functional designs. A design patent is valid for 14 years from the date of issue.
- What Jurisdictions Are Available for Searching?
- What Is a Trademark?
- What Factors Go Into Picking a "Good" Trademark?
- How Much Are Trademarks Worth?
- What Is the Difference Between a Trademark, a Copyright, and a Patent?
- How Do I Get Trademark Protection?
- Why Should I Do a Clearance Search for a Trademark?
- What Is the Benefit of Registering a Trademark With the USPTO?
- What Is the Cost To File a Trademark Application?
- What Is an International Class In a Trademark Application?
- What Are Goods and Services In a Trademark Application?
- What Does an Examining Attorney Look For When Reviewing a Trademark Application?
- When Is There a Likelihood of Confusion Between Two Marks?
- What Is an Acceptable Specimen of Use?
- What Is the Difference Between the Principal Register and the Supplemental Register?
- How Long Does It Take To Register a Trademark?
- How Long Does a Trademark Last?
- What Is the Madrid Protocol?
- What Is the Nice Agreement?
- What Is the Paris Convention?
- How Do I Properly Use My Trademark?
- How Do I Protect My Trademark?
- What Trademark Symbol Should I Use?
- What Is Trademark Infringement?
- How Do Trademark Rights Relate to Domain Names (and What Is a UDRP)?
- How Do Trademark Rights Relate to Business Name Rights?
- How Do I Form a Business Entity?