When it comes to protecting things like inventions, written works, and brand names, the United States has several intellectual property laws in place that prevent others from using these things unlawfully. But just what is intellectual property, and how do intellectual property laws differ?
Intellectual property rights are the legally recognized and exclusive rights of an individual or group to creations of the mind. Intellectual property protection applies to patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial design rights, trade dress, and sometimes trade secrets, as well. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are the three most common of intellectual property rights. The differences in trademark, patent and copyright laws are as follows:
- Patents grant inventors the right to their own inventions, and they also prohibit others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing that inventor’s product. Patents are only granted for a limited time and must be renewed after a number of years. In the United States, patents are filed with United States Patent and Trademark Office, which can publicly disclose a patent. Inventions are defined as solutions to specific technological problems, which may be a product or process.
- Trademarks are used for brand names, product names, or other products. A trademark may also go to a sports team, musical act, or other groups and individuals. Trademarks are any recognizable signs, designs, or expressions to distinguish the products and services of a trader from similar products and services of competitors. Trademarks are handled by the USPTO, also.
- Copyrights give a creator of an original work exclusive rights to it for a limited time. Copyrights typically apply to creative, intellectual, and artistic works, such as songs, stories, books, albums, paintings, sculptures, graphic designs, building designs, and other forms. Copyrights do not cover the ideas themselves. Copyrights in the United States are registered with the United States Copyright Office; however, once a work is created, it is automatically copyrighted and protected, which makes copyright laws different, and sometimes less straightforward, than other intellectual property laws.
If you have intellectual property that you would like patented, trademarked, or copyrighted, or in the event of intellectual property theft, contact an intellectual property rights lawyer as soon as possible. Have more questions? Leave a comment below.