Difference Between Copyright, Patent And Trademark


The Intellectual Property Law has been the fastest growing legal field in recent years. It is pretty obvious that without having the assurance of security regarding one’s innovation, creative works or a brand, it is unlikely that companies or individuals will be willing to give their time, effort and money into such projects. Hence, strong Intellectual Property Laws and growth in innovation work in tandem.

The domain of intellectual property is vast. But it’s essential to have a good understanding of the most common rights that are offered through Intellectual property protection. There are three distinct types of intellectual property — patents, trademarks, and copyrights — which are often confused with one another.

There are some differences between a trademark, a patent, and copyright, but they are all about individual and business rights to exclusively own and market an idea or product they have created. The main difference between this three terms is that; Patents are used for inventions, while copyright is more to do with protecting someone’s literary and artistic skills. A trademark is used for symbols or slogans a business might use to set its product or service apart from competitors.

What Is A Copyright?

A copyright is a form of protection provided by the Copyright Laws of the United States to authors of “original works of authorship.” These include literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other works,. Copyright protection is available both for published (e.g., sold or leased) works, as well as for works in unpublished form.

Examples of protectable works are books and pamphlets; songs, including their words and music; plays and other dramatic performances, including parodies, comic routines, fictional and non-fictional works, pantomimes and choreographic works; paintings and drawings, both “original” works and reproductions; textile designs; jewelry and toys with “artistic” aspects; maps and blueprints; photographs; motion pictures and sound recordings in the form of records, disks and tapes; and computer software.

There are various categories of materials which are not subject to copyright protection. These include works that have not been “fixed” in a tangible form, as for example, a speech that is not written down or recorded.. Other examples of works not subject to copyright protection include titles and slogans; ideas; procedures; principles and concepts; works that are purely factual in nature and do not contain artistic expression; conventional geometric figures; and forms such as blank diaries and bookkeeping forms.

What Is a Trademark?

A trademark is a word, name, phrase, color, symbol or logo that identifies a product or service and helps distinguish it from that offered by the competition. Examples of very well-known trademarks are “Calvin Klein” for clothing, “Coca-Cola” for carbonated beverages, “Mercedes-Benz” for automobiles, “FTD” for the service of delivering flowers and “Don’t Leave Home Without It” for credit card services. Trademarks can represent:

  • The product or service itself (ex. iPhone)
  • A feature or element of the product or service (ex. FaceTime)
  • The manufacturer or provider of the product or service (ex. Apple).

The owner of a trademark has the right to prevent infringers from unfairly competing with the owner by using marks that are “confusingly similar.” In the United States, trademark rights can arise in two ways:

  • Automatically by use of the trademark in the marketplace in connection with a product or service (“common law” or unregistered trademarks).
  • By registration of the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) (“registered” trademarks).

Although not required by law, registering a trademark with the PTO confers many benefits on the trademark owner. For example, a U.S. trademark registration gives the owner nationwide rights to use the mark in connection with the goods and services included in the registration. Common law trademarks only create rights in the specific geographic territories where the owner is actually using it.

What Is a Patent?

A patent is a grant to an inventor that allows the inventor to monopolize the manufacture, use, sale, and importation of an invention. Currently, U.S. patent rights last twenty years from the date of the original application was filed with the USPTO, office. Although there are some exceptions made to extend a patent’s term. During that time, the patent owner has the right to recover damages in a lawsuit from anyone who manufactures, uses or sells the patented item without the permission of the holder. 

The patents which are applied in the USTPO, are only valid in the United States and US Territories. If anybody wants protection outside the United States, then it is important to research the intellectual property rights of that nation and apply for the protection with their governing authorities in which he seeks the protection.

It is often said that a patent is an “exclusionary” right, enabling the owner to prevent others from making, using, importing, offering for sale, or selling the invention claimed in the patent. The exclusionary rights granted by a patent can be very valuable, allowing patent owners to license others to practice the invention claimed in the patent. There are three types of patents: utility, design, and plant.

  • Utility patent: Granted for new, nonobvious, and useful inventions for processes, machines, manufactures, composition of matter, or if the invention makes an improvement on a previous invention.
  • Design patent: Granted for new and original ornamental designs of a manufactured product. The appearance of the object receives protection instead of its functionality.
  • Plant patent: A patent for the invention or discovery of an asexually reproducible plant that is distinct and new.

Patent vs Copyright vs Trademark In Tabular Form

A trademark can be a phrase, word or design—or all three— that describes what your company does or sells. Having a trademark can help separate you from your competitors.A copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium.A patent grants property rights to the creator(s) of a new, unique and useful invention, discovery or process. There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant.
Can last forever, but you must file periodic maintenance and renewal paperwork starting five years after registration.Life of the author/creator, plus 70 years For works made for hire (works created for a business under a contract that gives the business the copyright): 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.Typically 20 years.
Application fees:
Initial fee of $250 per class of goods/services
Application fees:
Minimum fee of $45
Application fees:
Initial fee of at least $80, plus fees for search and examination fee, depending on size of company
Protects the trademark from being registered by others without permission and helps you prevent others from using a trademark that is similar to yours with related goods or services. Protects your exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and perform or display the created work, and prevents other people from copying or exploiting the creation without the copyright holder’s permission.Safeguards inventions and processes from other parties copying, making, using, or selling the invention without the inventor’s consent.
Coca-Cola® for soft drinks
Logos, illustrations, blog posts, websites, articles, advertising copy, photographs—however you cannot copyright names, individual words or simple phrases.
The design of the iPhone; BlueTooth data transferring technology; Keurig’s K-Cup pod, F22 and F35 jets.

Key Takeaways

  • Patents prevent others from making or selling an invention, but trademarks protect the words, phrases, symbols, logos, or other devices used to identify the source of goods or services from usage by other competitors.
  • Trademarks give the owner exclusive use of certain images and phrases, and the right to prevent others from using a similar mark that would confuse consumers about who was producing the goods or services the consumer was buying.
  •  Copyright protects published and unpublished original works, including works in literature, music, art, architecture, software, and choreography.
  • Copyright protection is available to United States citizens in foreign countries; the United States is a member of the Universal Copyright Convention and the Berne Convention, which in general terms offer reciprocal copyright rights in their respective member countries. 
  • A patent is issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and is a legally enforceable right to exclude others, for a certain number of years, from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the invention claimed in the patent.
  • The registration of a trademark in the United States Patent and Trademark Office is highly desirable but not mandatory. The owner of a trademark may file an application to register its trademark if either (a) the mark has been used on goods or services in interstate commerce, or (b) the owner has a good faith intention to use the mark in interstate commerce with respect to specified goods or services.