Differences between a Copyright, Patent and Trademark – Long Version

Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship.” A work can be, for example, a literary work; a pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; motion pictures and architectural work.
Copyright protection is granted instantly to authors when the work is created regardless of if the works is published or unpublished. There are no formal requirements.

Particularly, a copyright notice and registration with the Copyright office is not necessary for copyright protection. However, the notice is beneficial for preventing an infringer from arguing that they had no notice that the work is subject to copyright protection. The notice should include the name of the owner of the copyright in the work, the symbol ©, and the year of first publication.
Registration with the Copyright Office is advantageous because it establishes a public record of the copyright, enables filing of an infringement suit in court, statutory damages and attorney’s fees if registered within three months after publication. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
Duration: For works created after 1978, Life of Author plus additional 70 years

A trademark or service mark is generally a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof that identifies the source of goods or services. The trademark protects the reputation of the source from being damaged by other parties using the mark in similar services. Trademark protection is provided by both State and Federal.

A Federal trademark is obtained by submitting an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), where it is examined for compliance with federal law and rules. The most common reason to refuse registration is a “likelihood of confusion” between the mark of the applicant and a mark already registered or in a prior-filed pending application owned by another party.

In the United States, parties are not required to register their marks to obtain protectable rights. You can establish “common law” rights in a mark based solely on use of the mark in commerce, without a registration.  However, owning a Federal trademark registration provides a number of significant advantages such as a legal presumption of ownership of the mark, public notice of claim of ownership, the right to use the federal registration symbol “®”; and the ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court.

Duration: Trademark Registrations issued or renewed on or after November 16, 1989, whether on the Principal Register or on the Supplemental Register, remain in force for ten years from their date of issue or the date of renewal, and may be further renewed for periods of ten years, unless previously cancelled or surrendered.

Patent protects an invention. There are three types of patents: 1) Utility patents to inventors of new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof; 2) Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and 3) Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
A federal patent is obtained by submitting an application to the USPTO, where is examined for compliance with federal law and rules. The most common reason to refuse registration is a “lack of novelty” or “obviousness” between the invention of the applicant and prior publications.

Duration: Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States