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Introduction to Copyright, Patent, and Trademark & Comparative Study


What’s Copyright?

A copyright is a collection of rights automatically vested to you once you have created an original work. To understand how these rights can be used or licensed, it is helpful to analogize them to a bundle of sticks, where each stick represents a separate right vested to you as the owner. These rights include the right to reproduce the work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies, to perform the work publicly, and to display the work publicly.
 As the copyright owner, you have the authority to keep each “stick,” to transfer them individually to one or more people, or to transfer them collectively to one or more people. This can be accomplished through licensing, assigning, and other forms of transfers. The power of copyright allows you to choose the way your work is made available to the public.


What’s Patent?

The primary goal of the patent law is to encourage innovation and commercialization of technological advances. Patent law incentivizes inventors to publicly disclose their inventions in exchange for certain exclusive rights. A patent protects inventions. These inventions can include new and useful processes, machines, manufactures, compositions of matter as well as improvements to these. Certain computer programs may fall within the subject matter protected by both patents and copyrights. In this respect the patent system compliments copyright protection by providing protection for functional aspects of the software, which are not protected by copyright. Unlike with copyright protection, to get patent protection one must first apply for and be granted a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Unlike the copyright registration process, the patent application process is expensive, complex, difficult, and time consuming and generally should not be attempted without the assistance of an experienced patent attorney or agent.


What’s Trademark?

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Examples include brand names, slogans, and logos. (The term “trademark” is often used in a general sense to refer to both trademarks and service marks.) Similar to copyright, a person does not need not register a trademark or service mark to receive protection rights, but there are certain legal benefits to registering the mark with the USPTO. There is rarely an overlap between trademark and copyright law but it can happen — for instance, when a graphic illustration is used as a logo the design may be protected both under copyright and trademark.

Copyright, patent, and trademark are all different types of intellectual property (IP). Although the three types of IP are very different, people often confuse them.

A brief description of copyright, patents, and trademarks, including a brief discussion of how these forms of IP differ from copyright, is provided below.                              


COPYRIGHT

PATENT

TRADEMARK

What’s Protected?

Original works of authorship, such as books, articles, songs, photographs, sculptures, choreography, sound recordings, motion pictures, and other works

Inventions, such as processes, machines, manufactures, compositions of matter as well as improvements to these

Any word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others

Requirements to be Protected

A work must be original, creative and fixed in a tangible medium

An invention must be new, useful and non obvious

A mark must be distinctive (i.e., that is, it must be capable of identifying the source of a particular good)

Term of Protection

Author’s life plus 70 more years.

20 years

For as long as the mark is used in commerce

Rights Granted

Right to control the reproduction, making of derivative works, distribution and public performance and display of the copyrighted works

Right to prevent others from making, selling using or importing the patented invention

Right to use the mark and to prevent others from using similar marks in a way that would cause a likelihood-of-confusion about the origin of the goods or services.