Definition of Patent

Patent and trademarks are two different ways to protect intellectual property. Patents are granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and are a form of property rights. When a patent is granted, the owner has exclusive rights over their invention for a limited amount of time.

By paying maintenance fees for their patent, the rights of a plant or utility patent holder will last for a period of twenty years from the date of application. Design patents last for fourteen years from the date where the patent was granted. Patents are meant to promote innovation, as well as the ability to make commercial profit from advances in technology. These laws grant rights to inventors in exchange for public disclosure of their inventions.

Inventions that can be patented include new machines, processes, manufacturing methods, and even matter compositions. Improvements to these items can also be patented. It is possible to obtain a patent or copyright for certain computer programs. In this way, patents are meant to compliment copyrights, and allow for the aspects of software that aren't protected by copyrights to be secured.

Patents are different from copyrights in that they must be applied for and granted by the USPTO. Copyrights do not need to be registered.

The process of applying for a patent can be lengthy, complicated, and expensive, which is why it's a good idea to seek help from a knowledgeable patent attorney.

Definition of Trademarks

Trademarks are marks meant to identify a company's brand. Trademarks only provide protection in a single field, so if you name a company “Nike” but don't sell athletic apparel or shoes, you wouldn't be violating the shoe company's trademark. Phrases, designs, words, and symbols can all be used as trademarks.

Slogans and logos also routinely serve as trademarks. Trademarks are similar to copyrights in that they don't need to be registered. However, registering your trademark with the USPTO will provide you with more protections than you would receive otherwise.

Although it is rare, there are certain circumstances where trademark law and copyright law overlap, such as when the logo of a company is designed using a graphic illustration.

Three Types of Patents

A utility patent is granted for a machine, matter composition, manufacture, or process that is novel and nonobvious. These patents can also be granted for improvements for existing inventions. Often called a “patent for invention,” utility patents prevent other companies from using or producing your invention without your approval. A utility patent will last for twenty years after your application has been filed. Contrary to common understanding, utility patents can be used for inventions such as chemical formulas, businesses processes, and computer software.

New ornamental designs for a manufactured product are covered by design patents. These patents cover an inventions appearance and not how it functions. Design patents are meant to protect a manufactured product's appearance. For instance, a car manufacture that produces a vehicle with a unique headlight design may want to apply for a patent to protect their design. A design patent will last for fourteen years from the date where it was granted.

The creation or discovery of a new asexual plant species can be protected using a plant patent. These patents last for twenty years from the application date.

What Are the Benefits of a Trademark?

When you register a trademark, the public will be notified that you are the mark's sole owner, providing you with legal protection. This proof of ownership will allow you to file a lawsuit if someone uses your trademark without authorization.

What Are the Benefits of a Patent?

After filing your patent, you will have sole rights to your invention, and will have the ability to:

  • Prevent others from using your invention
  • Stop unauthorized selling of your invention
  • Control when and how your invention is imported

What Is the Duration of a Trademark?

If your trademark has been registered, you can use the ® symbol. Although your trademark will remain valid in perpetuity, you will need to renew your mark every ten years to preserve your rights.

What Is the Duration of a Patent?

The duration of your patent will depend on the type of patent, but in general, it will last for twenty years. You can use a provisional patent to protect your invention for a year.

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