Trademarks vs. Copyright vs. Patents

The world of Intellectual Property is large and complex. Using it correctly can spell the difference between protecting your business’s future and most important assets and letting them fall by the wayside. The first step of Intellectual Property is acknowledging that you actually have it. The second step is identifying what you have and how to protect it. We’re going to focus on that step here.

There are three main types of Intellectual Property protections: trademarks, copyright, and patents. Each of the three cover different things, in different ways, for different amounts of time, under different agencies. Plenty of businesses already have all three and don’t even realize it, leaving their valuable assets up to be swiped at any moment. These are the three main forms of Intellectual Property:


A trademark is any word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of the above that specifically identifies your goods or services. It is something that is distinctly yours and separates you from everyone else on the market. It could be your logo, your most popular product’s name, your slogan, or even your product’s unique shape, color, or smell.

Trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In order to be registered, it has to be determined that your trademark is not too similar to any that are already registered. You don’t have to register your trademark to use it, but registering it gives you the sole legal right to use it on the market. Unlike patents and copyright, trademarks don’t have a set amount of time the protection lasts. You can keep renewing them as long as you are still using them commercially.


Copyright protects original creative works that are set in a tangible form. Any original, authored work that is released in a finished form and accessible to others can be protected by copyright. Copyright covers everything from books, photographs, films, and video games to songs, digital software, architecture, and dance moves.

Copyrights are registered with the United States Copyright Office. Copyrights are granted automatically to the author(s) of original works, but registering them gives the author(s) the sole legal right to reproduce the work and make money from it. In other words, it gives you the “right” to “copy” it and turn a profit. Copyright protections last the entire lifetime of the author(s) and an additional seventy years after.


A patent protects an inventor’s original creation of a new invention. In order to be patented, an invention must be new, unique, and usable in an existing industry. There are three types of patents: Design Patents, Utility Patents, and Plant Patents.

Patents are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Registering your patent gives you the sole legal right to reproduce it and use it. Unlike trademarks, you should not publicly reveal your patent until you have already begun to register it. This prevents your brilliant invention from being immediately ripped off. Patent protection generally lasts for twenty years after the patent was first filed.

Protect Your Assets

As you can see, Intellectual Property is wide enough to contain trademarks, copyright, and patents. Which does your business have? To start protecting your Intellectual Property, contact McDermott IP Law today! We believe in protecting client innovation.

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McDermott IP Law

We are committed to providing professional and authoritative legal advice to our clients. With decades of experience, we deliver sophisticated, cost-effective, and prompt solutions to your Intellectual Property needs.

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