What is the difference between copyrights, patents, and trademarks?

Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are three types of intellectual property, ideas that you can own and control.

Copyrights protect new creative and scholastic expressions that can be represented in a tangible form, like art, music, a poem, a book, scholarly articles, and original computer code. Mickey Mouse, as the character that exists behind every cartoon, costume, theme park, and piece of merchandise, is perhaps the most famous copyrighted idea. Copyrights exist to protect the commercial use of creators’ work and encourage them to continue sharing their ideas and advancements with the world.

Trademarks are the words, images, shapes, colors and other sensory signals that indicate to consumers the source of a product or service. Trademarks include obvious source indicators like logos and corporate names, but can also include scent (like Chanel No. 5), sound, (like the MGM “roar”), color (like the red sole on a Louboutin shoe), and any other feature that informs the consumer of who provided the goods or services. The law provides businesses with an exclusive right to commercial use of their trademarks in order to protect consumers from confusing counterfeits and charlatans and to protect businesses from unfair competition from copycats.

There are three main types of patents, as explained below, that give inventors the exclusive rights to make and sell their invention for a period of time (typically 20 years).

Utility patents protect the functionality of a new and useful process, machine, composition of matter (such as an alloy), or manufacturing system. Utility patents are the most common patent type and can offer inventors and companies broad protection for many types of ideas. Our cannabis patent lawyers can aid you through the application process and ensure protection for your business.

Plant patents are available for invented or discovered asexually reproduced plants that are a new variety of plant distinct and distinct from any plant found in nature. Often these plants are some form of genetically modified organism (GMO). Eligible plant types might include mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings. Feel free to contact our cannabis patent lawyers with specific plant patent questions.

Design patents are available to inventors who create a new ornamental design of a functional item. The design often constitutes the industrial schematics of inventions that could range from ballistic rockets to mechanical pencils. Our attorneys can help you with everything from strategy and design identification to the patent application process.