Friday, August 29, 2008

Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights

What are they and do you need one or all of them? Here are some brief definitions and information:

What is a Patent?
The standard legal definition is "A right to sue." It's an investment vehicle in terms of being a marketing document or a bargaining chip. Basically, if you apply for and are assigned an actual patent, you simply have the right to sue someone who produces or claims any rights to your intellectual property.

There are two types of Patents; Utility and Design.

  • Utility: New composition, manufacture, or method. Inventing or recreating how something functions or works.
  • Design: Just that, something that already exists and you are creating a new look.

What is a Trademark?
A name, phrase, or logo. A trademark is an indicator of the source of something. You can use a trademark for goods or services (TM or SM). Once your trademark have been accepted and registered, you would use the circle-R in place of the TM or SM.

There are some basic requirements for obtaining a trademark. The name must be sufficiently new - this often requires a preliminary search with the USPTO. It can't be confusingly similar and not descriptive.

What is a Copyright?
An automatic right to duplication. A copyright occurs when a work of art is created. With formal registration, others can't copy the work.

Copyright requirements are minimal. You can post your work as copyrighted by just marking it with the circle-C, the year it was created, and owner. You can also note, "All rights reserved." You do need to register your work with the USPTO to be able to actually go after someone for copyright infringements.

Interesting note; you can copyright an invention as a work of art and this is beneficial in preventing knock-offs from other countries trying to import them into the US.

In a nutshell:

  • Patent - Product
  • Trademark - Name
  • Copyright - Writings

Excerpted from the works of The Luther Law Firm.

No comments: