In the business world, organizations of all sizes have various tools available to them if they want to protect their intellectual assets.
Trademark vs Copyright vs Patent: What’s the Difference and Which Do You Need?
Trademarks, patents, and copyright regulations all come into play in this context, although it is easy to get confused about what each represents, let alone which you should choose for your own enterprise.
Here is a quick look at the distinctions between these three cornerstones of IP protection and the scenarios in which they will be relevant.
The simplest definition of a trademark is something that signifies and singles out the goods and services of a specific company from those of its competitors.
In most cases, this can include company logos, marketing slogans, and even brand names. The idea is that anything which makes your business instantly identifiable to customers is deserving of protection since it could also be exploited by a third party to trick consumers into thinking your organization was responsible for a product or service on offer.
How to register a trademark
The good news is that trademark registration is fairly straightforward, although it makes sense to get expert assistance when undergoing this process so that you can be certain you have done all you need to get official protection from the USPTO.
Some complications may occur after you send in your application. Before your trademark is officially accepted there’s a period of 30 days where other interested parties may put in an appeal. Each state has small differences in its trademark law, so for example, if you live in Orange County, you should definitely seek out an Orange County trademark lawyer.
Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that trademark legislation provides automatic protection for any distinguishing aspect of a brand; it is simply easier to prove ownership if it has been registered.
Like trademarks, copyright is an inalienable right which creators of any original work are afforded by law from the moment that work comes into existence.
In essence, a copyright holder is able to allow others to reproduce, distribute or display their work in any form they please, but the point is that permission must be sought and any relevant licensing fees paid for this to take place.
Registering work as copyrighted
In the US, the official governmental Copyright Office allows creators to register unpublished works to ratify their legitimacy and make it simpler to deal with infringement and abuse claims that may arise in the future.
Again, using these official channels is entirely optional, but maybe sensible for businesses that are keen to prevent unwanted exploitation.
Patents are a form of legal protection for inventions, covering everything from industrial processes and pieces of machinery to significant innovations and improvements made upon existing examples of these.
Businesses may choose to apply for patents if they have an especially innovative solution that they believe is worth registering, although this is by far the most costly, complex and time-consuming of the three IP protection options.
When to apply for a patent
Often it is only larger organizations, or those with unique inventions that are deemed worthy of patent protection, that need to apply for this process.
Ultimately you should seek specialist legal advice before taking any action to shield your business’ valuable assets from third parties, but being aware of the routes available and the implications of not doing anything is also useful.