What's the difference between a patent, copyright and trademark?

As we discussed in our last blog post, businesses have a lot on the line when it comes to the services and products they offer. These are the things that set one company apart from another so it can be important to make sure they are protected.

Protecting business assets can mean different things to different employers, and the means of protection can vary based on what needs protection. For example, if you have a particular product, idea or creative work, you may want to protect it through a patent, copyright or trademark. Knowing the differences between these three things can make it easier for people to protect materials.

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, patents are granted for inventions. A patent can prohibit anyone else from copying the invention and using, making or selling it without permission.

Copyrights protect exclusivity of musical, dramatic, intellectual, artistic or literary works. They establish authorship of the work and prevent anyone else from claiming ownership or using it without permission.

Trademarks, which we discussed in depth in our last post, apply to symbols, designs, phrases or words that serve to brand or identify goods. Service marks can provide the same type of protection to brand or identify services.

Depending on what you want to protect, you may want to seriously explore your options for registering for a patent, copyright or trademark. Once these are secured, you can have the legal standing to hold a party legally accountable and seek penalties in the event that someone else unlawfully uses your protected material.

Discussing these options and your rights with an attorney can be crucial if you have concerns or questions about protecting material or challenging use of protected goods, services, inventions or works of authorship.