Copyright vs Trademark vs Patent- What’s The Difference?

Getting a trademark, patent, or copyright can be a head-scratching process. It’s helpful to understand the difference between the three to figure out which one your business needs and how it will protect you.

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each, a list of advantages, as well as some information on the types of businesses relevant to trademarks, patents, and copyrights.

What is a trademark?

trademark example

Photo by Alexey Mak on Unsplash

A trademark is a design, word, or phrase that your company uses to identify its brand, goods, or services. Trademarks not only help to distinguish your company from competitors, but they also prevent others from copying your original ideas.

A great example is Paris Hilton’s popular catchphrase, “That’s hot!”

There are both state and federal-level trademarks, each with its own application and registration process.

Advantages of a trademark

When you receive a trademark, your competitors are not legally allowed to register the same or any deceptively similar variation of your trademark for the same category of goods and services.

When you register a trademark, a public record is created that establishes your ownership of it. You can then legally use the Ⓡ symbol, which helps your brand:

  • Build trust with consumers
  • Establish the legitimacy of your brand
  • Prevent others from copying it!

A federal trademark gives you a broader scope for enforcing the protection of your trademark. It also allows you to seek mark registration in other countries.

How much does a trademark cost?

The cost of a trademark will depend on factors like: 

  • Number of marks
  • The number of applicable classes (such as a good or service)
  • Where you are filing from
  • Any attorney fees

The basic cost of submitting your trademark application for a business name to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is anywhere from $225 to $600 per class.

What kind of business needs a trademark?

Any business’s name, logo, and tag lines that are unique and identify it clearly should consider obtaining a trademark to protect it.

Without a trademark, you’ll only have legal rights within the immediate geographic location in which you operate.

Examples of famous trademarks include Coca-ColaⓇ, Just do itⓇ, and KFC’s ‘it’s finger lickin’ good!Ⓡ.

nike just do it slogan

What is a patent?

A patent is a legally recognized property right granted to the creator or creators of a unique invention, process, or discovery.

Patents enable creators to stop others from manufacturing, selling, or otherwise using their inventions.

Patents fall under three main categories: design, utility, and plant.

  • Design patents:  for new and original ornamental designs.
  • Utility patents: the most common type of patent, are those used for anyone who discovers useful processes, items, or compositions of matter.
  • Plant patents: used for new plant discoveries and reproductions.

Advantages of a patent

It can take years for inventors to develop new and unique designs, and the process can be extremely costly. You want to protect that!

Getting a patent in place protects a creator’s invention and any related processes from being made, copied, or sold without permission from the inventor themselves.

How much does a patent cost?

The cost of acquiring a patent can vary significantly depending on the size of the company and the complexity of the invention.

The basic cost for filing a patent application ranges from $75 – $300. But, including search and examination fees, etc., the overall expense could run into the thousands.

What kind of business needs a patent?

Any business that relies on a self-innovated machine, manufactured product, chemical formula, or unique process should obtain a patent to protect it.

To be considered for a patent, an invention must be novel, and different in some way from any similar inventions already public.

Remember that this includes patents filed in other countries. It’s hard to ensure that no other patents exist. We recommended you hire an experienced patent attorney to help conduct the search and complete all necessary paperwork when filing for one.

Examples of famous patents include Bluetooth technology, the design of the Apple iPhone, and the electric lightbulb, awarded to Edison in 1878.

apple patent example


What is copyright?

copyright image

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Copyright protects originally created works such as books, songs, articles, photographs, illustrations, movies, and more.

Any copyright-able works must be in existence on either a physical or digital medium, such as paper, a digital file, or film.

Copyright enables the owner to exclusively use the protected works to sell, reproduce, distribute, perform, or otherwise display them.

Copyrights are automatically assigned to an original piece of work upon its creation. Nevertheless, it’s recommended to have it registered as a public record.

Advantages of copyright

Copyrights automatically protect originally created works. But, it can be hard to prove that it’s your original work if someone steals and copies it.

If someone were to copy your original work unlawfully, you could only file a copyright infringement lawsuit if you already registered your copyright.

Registering your creations as soon as possible ensures that you have as many protections in place against fakes, forgeries, and thieves who would steal your credit and profits.

Register with the US Copyright Office to make your claim of copyright a public record.

copyright examples

Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

How much does copyright cost?

Copyrights are the cheapest form of protection, with online registrations costing just $45.

A range of secondary fees like obtaining additional certificates or claiming in a group can bump that figure up. Even so, it’s still relatively minimal.

What kind of business needs copyright?

Any business that produces original creative content that’s been recorded, digitally saved, printed, tangibly made, or written down will need copyright and liability insurance.

As more content makes its way online, it’s essential to be familiar with copyright law and how your business will use copyrighted material. Accidentally infringing on copyright can be very expensive. So, all business owners should familiarize themselves with copyright law. Even if you don’t plan to actively register any copyrights at this time!

Examples of famous copyright include works of art, literature, written content, photographs, and more! Copyright applies to every creation, and this has become an increasingly complex topic in an ever-more-connected world.

Trademark vs patent vs copyright?

As an entrepreneur, business, or any kind of creator, owning a trademark, patent or copyright gives you an advantage over your competitors. It’ll also help protect you from counterfeiters.

Depending on what you’re protecting, the process may be complex and costly. Only you’ll know whether the perceived value of your intellectual property and creations is worth protecting.

If you’re wondering which is better, copyright or patent? The answer is, it depends on what you’re trying to protect.

Ultimately, trademarks, copyrights, and patents all serve to preserve business and the preciousness of creating something new. With these protections, innovation can continue to thrive.

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