What is the Difference Between a Trademark, a Patent, and a Copyright?


Often people get confused as to whether they need a trademark, a patent, or a copyright.  Though they are all similar forms of intellectual property that are filed with the United States federal government, they all have their unique purpose.  If you file a trademark when you need a patent or a trademark when you need a copyright, you will not end up with the protection you want.  I am going to give a brief summary for what each type of intellectual property is commonly used. 


  1. Patent: A patent gives you a 15-20 year window to exclude all others from making, selling, or using something that you invented.  Examples of this can be a process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter when it comes to utility patents.  To obtain a utility patent, you must have an idea that is useful, novel, and nonobvious.  Another alternative type of patent is a design patent.  A design patent protects the ornamental appearance of something.  In a nutshell, a patent is the right to protect an invention.


  1. Trademark: A trademark is a word, symbol, design, or phrase which identifies the source of a product or service.  Trademarks protect what identifies a company.  They can also identify universities, artists, and so forth.   Trademarks can last forever if they are properly maintained.  In a nutshell, a registered trademark is essentially the registration of a brand with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  


  1. Copyright: Copyrights are works of art fixed to a tangible medium.  Copyrights include paintings, movies, artwork, writings, certain software, sculptures, songs, and so forth.  Art that is copyrighted is protected from being copied regardless of the medium to which it is being copied.  Design patents, on the other hand, protect the ornamental appearance of something.  Copyrights last the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. 


We at Fargo Patent and Business Law have experience running businesses and understand business.  This unique trait can help bridge the gap between the needs of business and the demands of the legal system.  If you have a question, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


Fargo Patent & Business Law, PLLC – in**@fa************.com – 701-566-7571