Thursday, April 4, 2013

Guest Blog: What are the Differences Between Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents?

This article provides a simple, easy to understand, summary of the differences between Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents.

1. Trademark rights protect the WORD, NAME, SYMBOL or DEVICE.

In order to qualify for Trademark protection, the word, name, symbol or device must be used in trade with goods, to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others.

However, applications for Trademark Registration may be filed, prior to such use.

Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but NOT to prevent others from making the same or similar goods or from offering or selling the same or similar goods or services under a clearly different mark (generally, where a reasonable person would not confuse the two marks as being derived from the same source).

Trademarks which are used in interstate or foreign commerce may be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The terms "trademark" and "mark" and “Service Mark” are commonly used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.

2. Copyright protects the EXPRESSION.

Copyright is a type of protection provided to the authors/creators of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. Generally, the 1976 Copyright Act provides the owner of copyrights with rights.

The copyright protects the form of expression, NOT the subject matter of the work. For example, a description of a robot could be copyrighted, but this only prevents others from copying the description; it would NOT prevent others from writing their own description or from making and using the robot.

Copyrights are registered at the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.

3. Patent rights protect the INVENTION.

Patent registration provides the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States.

What is granted is NOT the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.

A Patent Registration for an invention, is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office for a term of 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office.*  Note, patents granted by the USPTO are effective only within the United States, US territories, and US possessions.

* In special cases, the start of the 20 year period commences on the date an earlier related application was filed (subject to the payment of applicable maintenance fees). 

Click here for a FREE EASY TO UNDERSTAND CHART, showing a side-by-side comparison of the differences between Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents.

* This article is published with permission granted by Grenier Law Offices, PC.  To view the entire article, go to   This article is provided for information purposes only and is not legal advice.  Also, it does not contain an exclusive list of issues. Do not rely solely on this checklist. Consult a qualified attorney with regard to the specifics of your situation.

Michelle L. Grenier, Esq. is a business lawyer and founder of Grenier Law Offices, PC, a Better Business Bureau Accredited Business since 2002.

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