Libenzon & Associates

The basics of patents, copyrights and trademarks

Intellectual property protection is an essential aspect any inventor should consider, if he believes his brilliant idea is worth trying and can make him a fortune.
Patents, copyrights and trademarks … They can be quite confusing, but guarantee you an intellectual property protection from the government. So, which of these legal shields should you pick out to safeguard your idea or startup while introducing it to the national or world market and large audience? It is extremely important to know the meaning of these terms, since each of them protects a peculiar type of intellectual property. Thus, let’s define the differences.


Protection seekers: Inventors and designers.

There are two primary patent types granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to protect an original invention for a particular period of time: utility and design patents.

Utility patents or patents for invention are granted to a fresh or improved product, process, function or a machine. They license their owners the sole right to keep out others from reproducing, adapting, selling or importing the shielded discovery. This patent type can be also applied to chemical compositions, business processes and software products.

The claimant can apply for a provisional patent that will be valid during a year or for a non-provisional patent, which will be protecting an invention during 20 years from the filing date, under the condition that the patent holder will timely pay stated maintenance fees.

Design patents are issued to protect new, novel and unique look of a manufactured item/article. If the inventor wants to prevent the competitors from copying and using his design without legal consequences, he should protect it with the design patent, which will be granted for 14 years without appliance of any maintenance fees.


Protection seekers: Authors, artists and other creative professionals.

Copyright protects such intellectual property items as books, articles, songs, movies and other works of art. It is valid during the author’s lifetime, plus additional 70 years and cannot be prolonged or renewed. However, you should bear in mind that there is always an exception from the rule. In this particular context, copyright for works that your create according to the job requirements is retained by your employer. One more important thing to remember is that you cannot copyright an idea. Your work must be presented in a material form: on a piece of paper, on a compact disk or as a book.

As a copyright owner you get the exclusive right to showcase, release, distribute, perform and license your creative work. Actually, after it gets a tangible form, it automatically becomes yours. Along with that, official copyright registration before or within five years after the publication, enhances your rights and grants legal ownership protection during the infringement suits in court.


Protection seekers: products and business owners

Trademarks are obtained to protect images, brand names, logos, phrases or words that identify particular tangible goods and mark them out from others on the market. Deeping into details, you can also come across the service mark notion. You may ask what the difference is. Simply defined, this notion is applied to a service protection instead of the protection of a material good. Actually, the “trademark” term is frequently used in reference to both trademarks and service marks. Bit in any case, it is useful to know the difference.
Officially registered trademark provides legal protection and confirms the exclusive owner rights throughout the country, as well as helps during the federal lawsuits against copycats and infringers. In addition, the registered trademark owner can freely use the ® symbol next to his products or services.
In comparison with patents and copyrights, trademarks do not expire after some stretch of time and last as long as the owner proceeds to take the advantage of it. The only thing he needs to do is to renew the registration during the continued use.

Critical factor

If you do not doubt the big time of your startup, service or creative work, then, following “Top 7 reasons why your startup needs a patent“, you should promptly register the idea and shield it against infringers. You do not have to possess any expert skills to submit a patent, copyright or trademark as the decision stands on the type of intellectual property you want to protect and secure for the sole usage. It takes the basic understanding of the main principles and a willingness to spent some time, dig into details and prepare necessary documents for filling. Of course you can always hire an experienced attorney in intellectual property and focus on the business development. After the official registration you get legal protection and can comfortably reap the harvest of your labour.