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What are Patents, Trademarks, Service Marks And Copyrights

Patent, trademark, copyright - we hear these three terms very frequently. Many don’t know that there is a distinct difference between filing for a patent and filing for a trademark. Same with copyright. Let us analyze the differences between a patent, trademark and a copyright.


When can you file for a patent? If you have a novel and unobvious invention, or a novel and unobvious improvement to an existing invention, you can file for a patent. A patent can be of different types. To see the different types of patents, see our previous article here: Different types of patents.

Filing a patent usually gives you protection for 14 to 20 years, depending on the type of patent. Filing a patent is an expensive proposition, and it should be done only if you are sure of the market value of the invention.


A trademark, to explain simply, is a brand name. A trademark is something which forms part of a product or its packaging, and is used to distinguish it from others in the market. It can be a word or a symbol.


A copyright is a right given to the creator to exclude others from copying or publishing or reproducing his or her works. A copyright is applicable to music, movies, drama, software, paintings, and many other fields.

One point to note is that even if there is a copyright, it cannot cover the entire subject matter. Let us take the example of a copyrighted book. You cannot copy specific wordings from the book, but you are free to read the book, understand it, and publish any of the ideas or concepts in your own words.

So, the bottom line is, one size does not fit all. There are situations where a simple copyright will protect your work. At some other times, you may need a trademark to protect your USP. And, if you have just invented that “killer product”, it certainly makes sense to go for the additional expenses for patenting it.

Article Source: http://freelegalinformation.info

Published by: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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