Copyright Vs Trademark Vs Patent – What’s The Difference?

February 14, 2023

By: Gareth Mankoo

Copyright Vs Trademark Vs Patent – What’s The Difference?

Copyright vs trademark vs patent — what do they mean, and how are they different? The answer to all these questions originates from the idea of intellectual property. These three tools are used to govern and protect the usage of one’s intellectual property and secure it for the owner.

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is made up of intangible assets owned by a company.

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Source: Harrison Pensa
Source: Harrison Pensa

They include ideas, artistic expression in music or poems, scientific or nonscientific innovations, discoveries, research, and other specific expressions. The law is designed to protect intellectual property and, in the process, compares copyright vs trademark vs patent.

Each of these fortifies a protective structure that ensures the intellectual property is exclusive to the ones who hold its rights.

As we dive into what separates copyright vs trademark vs patent, it will help if you focus on the objective you wish to achieve with your intellectual property. It also helps to identify and acknowledge the type of protection your intellectual property needs when it is accessible to the public domain.

One by one, we will address the differences in the contest of copyright vs trademark vs patent.

What is a copyright?


A copyright is the natural and automatic rights you have to a piece of work. It applies to tangible aspects such as a piece of art, a work of original music, or any other form that anyone can replicate to create copies.

Copyright bestows the exclusive right to the rightful property owner to recreate and distribute the piece of work for personal gain. If you wish to pass this uncontested power to someone else or to share its rights with someone else, you can transfer the copyrights to them.

“Licensing” is a common term for temporarily or permanently transferring copyrights to someone else.

What are the advantages of filing a copyright?

Let’s assume you are a musician and have written a piece of music that has taken a better half of the year to create. Your hard work has resulted in something extraordinary, and a growing audience wants to hear the music.

Soon, your name will be associated with a major record label, and you may even land your first live tour. You realize that someone is selling your music under their name without your approval.

A copyright will help you contest this unsolicited distribution of your work. The law protects books, music pieces, movies, unique designs, sculptures, and other works of uniqueness from being misused and copied.

Examples of what can be copyrighted

Anything can be copyrighted just as long as it is unique. Here are some examples:

  • Literary works (such as books, articles, and poems)
  • Musical works (including the lyrics and the musical score)
  • Dramatic works (such as plays and musicals)
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works (such as photographs, illustrations, and paintings)
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works
  • Software and computer programs
  • Websites and their content (including text, images, and code)

What is a trademark?

Source: Northwest Registered Agent
Source: Northwest Registered Agent

Trademarks are identifiers that set a business entity and its components apart. They could include an entity name, logo design, punchline, design style, or any other aspect to bring differentiation to an entity created for financial gain. Some brands also trademark their visual mnemonics like mascots and design templates.

Breaching these laws includes copying the objects protected by the trademark to create false copies that the owner does not authorize. One does not necessarily need to register a trademark, but if they do, one receives more protection by the law.

Unlike copyrights, which can protect any unique creative expression, trademarks protect the business interests of individuals and companies.

What are the advantages of registering a trademark?

For any business, being unique is critical for survival. Your business defines itself by its logo and other visual mnemonics. You put in ample time and energy to ensure that the word about your business travels far, and your logo is the vehicle for this spread.

Imagine the loss of equity your business will suffer if some other company or individual replicates your logo and does business by leveraging all the goodwill and trust you have earned over the years.

A trademark protects business owners from such situations by giving the first trademark users a preference over all other contestants.

Examples of what can be trademarked

If you are a business owner, entrepreneur, or leader responsible for a brand's reputation, you need to be well-versed in what a trademark is and what it can do. This is what a trademark can protect:

What is a patent?

Source: LegalZoom
Source: LegalZoom

Patents are targeted explicitly at inventors. The world, especially the scientific and research community, holds the creators of concepts and ideas on a high pedestal.

Patents are the celebrations of each new milestone achieved by an individual or organization that can be categorized as an invention. From artifacts to machinery, processes to lessons, patents extend to all aspects of human life, bringing order to the chaos.

Three types of patents are built to give inventors more peace of mind.

1. Utility patent

The patent applications that include long, heavily worded volumes of text are known as utility patents. These are among the most commonly known and referenced form of patents.

Utility patents are generally new forms of engineering and technology that explain elaborate processes on how one must do things to achieve a specific result.

2. Design patent

Just like technological solutions, design can be a landmark solution for businesses. Think about the highly ergonomic Coca-Cola bottle or the ingenious of Mr. Dali to place the logo of Chupa Chups lollipops on the top of a lollipop instead of the side.

Design patents protect these works of genius in an exciting and highly-detailed way. Because of the subjectivity in visual design, there is a higher chance of design patents being infringed.

Thankfully, judging when a design patent has been jailbroken doesn’t rely on how it looks alone but on how it functions.

3. Plant patent

The world of botany has its bespoke form of patenting. Plant patents are used to identify new forms of plants created through genetic modification or scientific research.

Plant patents can lead to breakthrough discoveries that could benefit humanity significantly. This process automatically amps up their monetary value.

There is no competition in the contest between copyright vs trademarks vs patents. Each of these is created to perform a specific role and depends significantly on the role you set for them.

Here is a comprehensive view of the critical differentiators of each of the three.

Source: Copyrighted
Source: Copyrighted

To sum it up, copyright vs trademark vs patent are all forms of intellectual property protection that aim to secure exclusive rights for creators and owners of creative works, brands, and inventions respectively.

What are some commonly asked questions about copyright vs trademark vs patent? Get your questions answered with these three FAQs.

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1. Is copyright the same with patent?

Not at all; they are completely different. The purpose of a patent is to protect an invention, while the purpose of copyright is to protect a writer's or artist's work.

2. Can you own a patent forever?

To put it briefly, the answer is "no." The only other form of intellectual property protection that isn't permanent is patents. Once a patent has expired and an invention has entered the public domain, anyone can use it without paying royalties or getting permission from the inventor.

3. How long does a trademark last?

Trademarks, in contrast to patents and copyrights, have no definitive expiration date. Unless the owner stops making use of the trademark, it will eventually fade away. After receiving a registration from the USPTO, the owner is obligated to use the mark in commercial activities.

Bottom line

When you are creating your own business, keep the following in mind before you set off into the public eye:

  • What does your business stand for?
  • Who stands to gain the maximum advantage from replicating your business?
  • Do you have brand equity, and what are your products?
  • Who has the rights to the open files and brand assets of your business?
  • How easy is your brand identity to be reproduced??

The list goes on. Asking these questions will help you find a quick solution when another company tries to replicate your products.

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