Understand What Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks Are

Understand What Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks Are

You’re faced with the following problem:  You have some intellectual property you want to protect but aren’t sure if you need a patent, copyright, or trademark.  The first thing you need to do is know the difference between each one.  Here are the basics.

A patent is a property right granted by the government to an inventor to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the country or importing the invention into the country for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.

A trademark protects words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, trademarks are your brand. Trademarks, unlike patents and copyrights, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce.

A copyright protects original works of authorship, such as writings, music, software code, and works of art that have been tangibly expressed. The Library of Congress registers copyrights which last for the life of the author plus 70 years.

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