Trademark Vs. Patent Vs. Copyright: What Do These Intellectual Property Terms Mean?
Adrianna Ngo Student, UC Berkeley
These rights are based on the legal ideas of trademark, patent,and copyright laws.
What is a Trademark?
According to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a trademark is “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” This means that a trademark must be distinct and recognizable to a certain party.
In other words, if you are opening a business that starts with an M, you can't create a logo that includes two yellow arches. That is too similar to McDonald's logo. You'd be infringing on their trademark.
Something important to recognize for trademarks is that they do not expire after a period of time. A trademark can last forever as long as you continue to use it and file the correct paperwork.
This paperwork includes filing to register your trademark with the USPTO. Although you don’t need to register your trademark with the US Patent and Trademark to establish rights on your trademark, there are many benefits to registering with the USPTO.
- Having a notice to the public of your claim of ownership over the word/phrase/symbol/etc.
- Exclusive rights to use your trademark on goods/services
- Legal grounds of ownership nationwide
What is a Patent?
A patent is a property right for any invention, granted by the USPTO in exchange for public disclosure of the invention. There is a limited duration period for patents.
Inventions including machinery, technology, chemical creations, or any industrial matter can be considered for a patent.
In order to apply for a patent, you must file an application through the USPTO. There are two types of patents you can apply for — a design patent or a utility patent.
- Design Patents protect the way a product looks and last for 15 years from issuance. It is important to note that this patent protects the ornamental design and visual aspect of the product, not the product itself.
- Utility Patents protect the way a product performs and how it's used. They last for 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States.
What is a Copyright?
Copyright protects original works of authorship, such as literary or artistic works. This includes books, songs, movies, or even architecture. This type of protection covers both published and unpublished products.
In general, registration is voluntary for a copyright. Copyright exists from the second your work is created.
However, if you want to bring a lawsuit to court regarding a copyright issue, you must register for a copyright on your work. So it's best to register a copyright, which a lawyer can help you do.
To register a copyright, you or a lawyer must submit an application through a registration portal on the U.S. Copyright Office. These copyrights have different duration periods based on the product you want to copyright.
For example, if a piece of work is created by a single individual, the protection of the copyright lasts for the lifetime of the author, plus 70 years. If the word was created anonymously or for hire, the duration period of protection lasts either 95 or even 120 years.
Patents, trademarks and copyrights can be confusing.
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