Quick difference between Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights

Copyright protects authors of “original works of authorship” such as novels, paintings, and movies.  Contrary to popular belief, no formal procedures are necessary for Copyright protection.  However, registration and proper copyright notices are beneficial for obtaining damages from an infringer.

Generally, the copyright term is the life of the author plus 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).  A trademark can be protected by state law, however a Federal trademark registration is necessary before using the federal registration symbol “®”.  The term is continuous subject to renewal.

Patent protects an invention such as process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, new, original, and ornamental designs for an article of manufacture; and asexually reproduced distinct new varieties of a plant. A federal patent is obtained by submitting an application to the USPTO, where is examined for compliance with federal law and rules.

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