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What Is the Difference Between a Patent, Copyright, and Trademark?

If you have a new product or idea that you think is going to be the next big thing, you need to take steps to protect it. This can be done through a patent, trademark, or copyright.

Each of these provides legal protection that prevents someone else from profiting from your work. However, you need to know the difference between them to apply for the correct protection.

Patents protect new processes, inventions, and scientific developments. Trademarks protect a brand, slogans, and logos. Copyrights protect your original works of authorship.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the key differences among them.


What Is a Patent?

Patents safeguard your original invention, but only for a certain amount of time. Patents are granted through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), giving you the right to produce your product without having to worry about competition while the patent is active. There are three kinds of patents, and you should know which one is best to protect your idea.

Utility Patents

Utility patents cover the creation of new or improved products, machines, or processes. With a utility patent, no other person or company can make, use, or sell your innovation without proper consent. These patents are good for up to 20 years.

Plant Patents

As the name suggests, plant patents apply to protecting new and unique plants from being copied. This patent is also good for up to 20 years of protection.

Design Patents

Design patents apply to the unique look of an item that makes it instantly recognizable. The visual elements contribute to the identity of your creation and can be protected with this type of patent.

A copyright protects works you’ve authored, which can include art, writing, and music. Once you have a copyright, you have the sole right to share, display, perform, or license your original works, with the exception of the fair use doctrine that allows for distribution of this material for journalistic reporting, educational, and scholarly purposes.

What Is a Trademark?

Trademarks protect words and design characteristics that serve as an identity for a product. A prime example of where trademarks come into play is with brand names or corporate logos. Service marks are similar, but they are for providers of services rather than tangible items. You would not be allowed to create a symbol or brand name that looks, sounds, or is too similar in meaning to one that is already trademarked in a related industry.

How Do You Know Which One You Need for Your Invention?

Sometimes, it will be straightforward as to whether you should apply for a patent, copyright, or trademark. Other times, there may be a gray area that makes you unsure of what to choose. You can make sure you get the right protection for your innovation by contacting a patent attorney.

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by Sushree Swagatika

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