Copyright, Patent, Trademark: What’s the difference?

Obtaining copyright, a patent, and/or a trademark for your company is an important part of the business process, but many people don’t know the difference between the three different ways you can protect yourself.

First and foremost, if you’re reading this, you probably thought of an excellent idea that falls under your intellectual property. For that, the Sanchelima & Associates P.A. team is very proud of you, and congratulations! This is the first step to a bright future. This is also the first step towards protecting yourself, your brand, your company, and, of course, your intellect.

The business world is highly competitive, and many people want to capitalize on a great idea, a plan, or a business model. These types of things can include designs, catchphrases, brand names, the product itself, etc. You want to make sure what you create is your own and no one can take that from you. To do so, you can file and register for a copyright, a patent, or a trademark.

What is a Copyright?

A copyright protects intellectual property. Examples of copyright ownership are artistic work, such as paintings, books, musical compositions, plays, choreography, etc. Just about everyone is a copyright owner. As soon as you create something new or fix a piece of original work, your new product or the tweaks you made to an existing product, making it your own, give you copyright ownership.

Here’s the thing: copyright ownership, and legally filing for copyright protection are two different things.

Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. Copyright provides you with the ability to:

  • Make copies of the work.
  • Make similar work based upon the original.
  • Sell, rent, lease, or lend the copies or phonorecords.
  • Publicly perform the work if, for example, it’s an artistic expression, such as a play or dance.
  • Display the work publicly if, for example, it’s a literary or visual work.
  • Perform the work publicly if it’s an audio transmission, for example, a sound recording.

Registering for copyright allows you to protect your rights to this. What that means is if someone else were to take your work and do any of the above, you have the right to litigation of infringement under US law. Infringement litigation is the unauthorized use, reproduction, or sales of protected material, thus going against the above list.

Copyrights can last for the life of the author and 70 years afterlife.

What is a Patent?

Patents are obtained to give an inventor the sole right to own the property of their invention. It must be a machine, something manufactured, a process (such as a law process), or a compound of matter (such as a chemical compound). A patent differs from a copyright in that it cannot be obtained by the way an idea or suggestion might be expressed.

There are three different types of patents. These patents include:

  • Utility Patents
    • There is also a Provisional Patent. These patents give the inventor time to file their utility patent, but they have up to a year to be in “patent pending” status before they lose the filing date.
  • Design Patents
  • Plant Patents

Patents are important so that other people do not have the right to make, use, or sell the invention made by the inventor without the permission of the inventor.

Patents can last up to 20 years.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark protects your brand identity. This protects things like brand names, logos, phrases, slogans. Trademark rights come from the actual use of things, so there is no time limit on when they can expire.

You do not have to register your trademark, but there are benefits in doing so. You have the option to register as a “common law” trademark. This kind of trademark only protects the rights of the service marks in commerce. Filing a federal trademark makes you the sole owner of the contents within the trademark filing nationwide. You can also file statewide, which would not require a federal trademark. These trademarks require different applications and have different protections along with them.

Can I have a patent, copyright, and a trademark for my business?

The short answer is, yes.

Copyrights are automatically in place when a work is created, but can be filed for legal protection. Patents must be registered. Trademarks are only automatic based on the legitimate use of the marks, but you can be file trademark registration for legal purposes, as well.

All three operate independently, so you can register for one, both, or three if you’d like to.


Copyright examples in a real-life situation

  • Books
  • Dramatic works
  • Architectural drawings
  • Choreography
  • Sound recordings

Patent examples in real-life situations

  • iPhone (Patent Name: Electronic Device)
  • 3D Printer (Patent Name: “Apparatus for production of three-dimensional objects by stereolithography”)
  • Bluetooth (Patent Name: “Peer to peer information exchange for mobile communications devices”)
  • Solar Panel (Patent Name: “Apparatus for utilizing solar radiant energy”)
  • Self-driving Car (Patent Name: “Vision system for an autonomous vehicle”)

Trademark examples in real-life situations

  • Coco Chanel
  • Dolce & Gabbana
  • McDonald’s golden arches
  • McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” catchphrase
  • Coca-Cola cursive writing logo
  • Nike’s “swoosh” checkmark logo


How do you know if one is better than another? To make it even simpler:

Copyright protects the original work and how it might be displayed.

Patents protect an invention for the use of something.

Trademarks protect how all of it is being marketed, made, and sold, as long as people are using it.

At Sanchelima & Associates P.A., we help you figure out what’s right for your business. Furthermore, we help with any legal concerns, issues, or filings you might have or need to defend. Lawsuit and infringement cases are a strong suit of ours, but we are not here for the cases. We are here for our clients. Just like our main page says, “we don’t have cases, we have clients,” and we would love to be of service to you.

For more information, give us a call: 305-447-1617 or contact us for further inquiries.

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