How Patents are Different From Trademark and Copyrights

Let’s start with a simple understanding. If you have even the slightest suspicion that you want to patent a product, you need to hire and get legal advice from a patent lawyer or a patent agent. This blog is not legal advice. I am not your lawyer or your agent. I am not providing you with any legal advice, representation, or counsel. You and I have no attorney-client relationship. The purpose of this blog is to introduce you to the vocabulary that you will need when you got to a patent attorney and ask him to help you patent your product.

There are essentially four types of intellectual property: patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret.

Patenting a product enables you to prevent other people from making, using or selling your product in the United States. Patenting a product, however, does not actually secure for you the right to make use and sell your invention in the United States, because the invention might contain parts that are somebody else’s patent product. The term of the patent is roughly 20 years from the date of filing of a patent application, though the actual calculation of the term is possible only after the product is patented and the calculation is complex.

Patenting a product is different from registering a trademark in that patents protect your exclusive right to make the things or perform the processes that are your business, while trademarks merely protect your business name. A patent helps you protect yourself from having some knock-off artist manufacture goods or provide services identical to the ones that you have developed, a trademark protects you from that same rip-off artist using your name to sell his rip-off product.

Copyright is different from patenting a product in that copyright protects a particular expression fixed in a tangible medium. Copyright prevents people from reproducing your ideas as they are expressed in print or recording or other tangible form. There may be some overlap in patent cases where computer software is used and there is copying of the software by a rip-off artist also creates a product that infringes the patent on your product.

Trade secrets are the things that you don’t tell other people, whether those are your customer list or your secret formula for blueberry pie. Patents are public, once they issue, and you can choose to have them published during the process of patent prosecution. Registering a trademark, applying for a patent, or registering a copyright all involve very public conduct. Trade secrets are about protecting yourself from a competitor hiring an employee and learning the things that you don’t tell anyone.

Remember: This blog is not legal advice. I am not your lawyer or your agent. I am not providing you with any legal advice, representation, or counsel.

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