Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents


The terms "copyright," "trademark," and "patent" are often confused with each other. However, they are actually very different types of intellectual property protection that serve different purposes. Here is an overview of the differences between copyrights vs trademarks vs patents:


Copyright is a form of protection in the U.S. Constitution and is granted by law. This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual works as well as sound recordings. Copyright owners have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform or display their works publicly (e.g., on the Internet). They may also prepare derivative works based on their original work (e.g., translation).


The owner of a trademark can prevent others from using it for similar goods or services, even if they have not registered the mark. Trademark protection is based on use and not registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Trademark law protects both registered and unregistered trademarks but only if they’re used in commerce, which means that you’ve actually made sales using them (or plan to sell them). If you want to protect your business name as a trademark, you must be able to show that consumers associate that name with your products or services before you can register it with the USPTO as an official mark.


A patent is a grant of legal monopoly power over an invention or design, usually by the government. Patents are issued to protect inventions, but may also be used to prohibit others from using technology that would compete with a company's own products or services. Patents are limited in scope and duration; they typically last for 20 years after the date of filing and can only be granted to the first person to invent something. Patents can be sold, licensed, or assigned as intellectual property rights.


Copyright is a form of "intellectual property" protection that protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works such as poetry, novels, movies, songs or computer software. Trademark is a type of legal device that can be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which allows you to protect your brand name so others can't use it without your permission. A patent gives inventors exclusive rights to their inventions for 20 years—and sometimes longer if they renew them—which means other people cannot make or sell their inventions without permission from the patent owner.


There are many similarities between the three, but they all have their own unique benefits. When deciding which one is right for you, it’s important to consider how much time and money you want to spend on protecting your idea. If it’s just an idea that you want to keep secret while developing it further before making it available to the public at large then copyright might be enough.