Patent, trademark, and copyright law can be confusing. Understanding what each one represents and the rights they uniquely protect is important. There are situations where your needs may be best served by having a combination of all three.
When faced with a decision over how to protect your business rights, you should first consult with a business attorney who specializes in patent, copyright, and trademark law. Here is an overview of these three choices and how they protect your business interests, ideas, or inventions.
What They Are
There are three basic criteria to identify these three legal protections. Patents are designated for functional things like inventions, copyrights establish legal rights to creative expressions, and trademarks signify brand name ownership. There are situations, depending on your business objectives, where you may need all three in some fashion.
Patents – The concept behind granting a patent focuses on the idea of protecting your right to a physical invention, unique modification to an existing physical thing, or a method of making something.
While gaining a patent is usually associated with a physical product, or the process of manufacturing that product, patent law can also govern ideas for machinery. A patent will have a fixed time depending on what it is protecting.
Patents can take up to two years to be granted and last for up to 20 years. Utility patents, such as manufacturing processes, last twenty years and utility patents for products are for fourteen years. Patents must be renewed in increments of 3, 7 and 11 years, or the patent will expire.
The filing process for a patent is complicated. If denied, it can be even more difficult to secure a patent in the future. Patent infringement law requires the filing of a civil action in court. When you feel you have something worthy of patent consideration, the first questions you ask should be addressed to a patent attorney.
Copyright – Pictures, paintings, sculptures, books and intellectual ideas fall under copyright law. This is one of the most ambiguous areas business attorneys often handle. That's a strong reason to have a competent copyright specialist on your team to guide you through the process.
If the terminology in a copyright is not confusing enough, the ways to circumvent a copyright will be. While some people can navigate the patent process by themselves, copyright law requires an educated expertise to establish a proper copyright.
Trademarks – When you need to protect a brand name, logo, symbol, or business mark, then you will need to put a trademark on it so no one else can use it as their own. While company names, brands and logos are the most common items trademarked, names for products also fall under this category.
When You Need All Three
There are unusual situations where applying for all three could be necessary. If you have anything that falls under the category of product, service, or method of production, you'll first require a patent.
However, if there is also an intellectual component to your product, it would serve you to consult with an attorney about adding a copyright to prevent someone from stealing the any creative aspects of the process that came up with the product. Then, when it comes time to market a patented, or copyright idea, you will want to make sure any brand name or logo associated with them is also protected.
There are situations where you will need to cover your bases with a patent, copyright and trademark. Since the differences are important, when you have a unique business opportunity, is to sit down and discuss your options with a patent and trademark attorney at firms like Lingbeck Law Office.