Difference Between Copyright, Trademark, & Patent

Difference Between Copyright, Trademark, & Patent

Your Intellectual Property (IP) is a valuable asset for your business. In the digital age, you need to protect your IP from infringement, misappropriation or the like. The type of protection you need depends on the type of IP involved.

The Brown & Blaier, PC understands the importance of properly protecting your IP and can assist you in obtaining a copyright or trademark, and can help you find an attorney for patent protection, in the U.S.


Copyright covers both published and unpublished original works. This protection begins at the moment of creation.

As the creator, copyright law gives you the right to reproduce, perform, display, or distribute copies of your work. You may transfer these rights to others, license the rights, and/or collect royalties from sales. You have the power to control how your creation is made available to the public.

Examples of works covered by copyright include but are not limited to:

  • literary works (which includes computer software)
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

For works created by an individual, copyright protection lasts for the individual’s life plus 70 years. Anonymous works are protected for 120 years from the date of creation or 95 years from the date of publication, whichever is shorter.


A trademark (TM) is a symbol, word, or phrase that connects a product to a company. A service mark (SM) is a symbol, word, or phrase that connects a service to a service provider. The term “trademark” is often used in general context to refer to both trademarks and service marks.

A federal TM or SM registration gives the owner exclusive right to use this registered symbol, word, or phrase throughout the U.S. (and potentially abroad), and prohibits others from using a similar mark, which could confuse consumers about whose product or service they are purchasing.

Trademarks do not expire as long as you continue to maintain the mark and use it in commerce.


A patent gives an inventor exclusive rights to their invention. This encourages inventors to publicly disclose their inventions so that society benefits from them.

Types of inventions that may be patented fall into the below categories:

  • Machines, usually with circuitry or moving parts;
  • Processes for producing tangible, concrete results;
  • Matter compositions, like drugs or genetically altered life forms;
  • Articles of manufacture; or
  • An improvement on any of the above.

To qualify for a patent, the invention must be useful, novel, and non-obvious.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues three types of patents, and each has a limited duration. A design patent is valid for 15 years from the issuance date while utility and plant patents are valid for 20 years from the date the inventor files the application.

Protect Your IP

Navigating the various IP laws can be complicated, so contact Brown & Blaier, PC today to determine what protection you need for your trademark or copyrightable work, today!

While we do not handle patent work, we can provide you with a referral from our strong IP network based in the U.S. and abroad.

Adam Blaier, Esq.


Skip to content