Know The Differences: Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks
Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office
A patent is a grant of exclusive rights over an invention to an inventor by the government. In exchange, the patent is publicly disclosed. These rights allow the holder to exclude others from using or selling the invention. Patents do not run indefinitely, though. In the United States, patents expire after 20 years.
Patent #6,469 : Abraham Lincoln is the only president to have a patent. In 1849, he was granted a patent for a method of “combining adjustable buoyant air chambers … to enable [ships] to pass over bars, or through shallow water, without discharging their cargos.”
Patent #1 : In 1790, the very first US patent was given. It was signed by George Washington and issued to Samuel Hopkins. The patent covered a method of making an ingredient used in fertilizer.
Patent #N/A : Despite being a prolific inventor, Benjamin Franklyn never patented any of his designs, saying “that as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours and this we should do freely and generously.”
Copyright protects original works of authorship (literary, musical, dramatic works, etc.) that can be reproduced or communicated. A copyright gives the holder the ability to prevent others from reproducing the work.
- Copyright can even extend to magic tricks. On April 11th, 2012, Teller
(of Penn and Teller fame), filed suit against another magician for imitating part of his act.
- Mickey Mouse has shaped our modern copyright law.
- There are a lot of myths about copyright. For example, contrary to popular belief,
mailing a copy of the work to oneself does not grant additional copyright protection.
A trademark is a legally registered distinctive sign that identifies a product as coming from a single source. The mark gives the owner ability to restrict how others can use the same
or similar symbols or phrases. There are three symbols that are primarily identified with trademarks:
Trademark Symbol (™) – This symbol indicates that the preceding mark is a trademark; however, it does not necessarily mean that the mark has been registered.
Service Mark Symbol (℠) – Similar to the trademark symbol, the service mark symbol identifies the mark as indicating a service rather than a product.
Registered Trademark Symbol (®) – This symbol indicates that the previous mark (trademark or service mark) has been registered with a government organization (e.g. USPTO).
- Trademarks are not limited to symbols and phrases. Even scents and shapes can be
- Trademarks are of immense value to businesses. They protect the relationship between
the consumer and the company by guarding the mark that the public associates with the
trademark holder. Forbes recently identified the most valuable trademarks in the world.
Google topped the list with its mark valued at $44.3 billion, Microsoft was next at $42.8 billion.
- The Bass & Co. Brewery of England claims to hold the world’s first trademark.
Their pale ale’s red triangle logo was first registered in 1876.