Copyright, Patent or Trademarks -  Art and Craft Festival Exhibitors

October 2010
How is a copyright different from a patent or a trademark?

Copyright, patents, and trademarks are all considered intellectual property. There are significant differences. A copyright is granted to the author or creator of an original work and lasts for a certain period of time. This set of rights allows the author or creator the right to copy, distribute and adapt their work. A patent is granted by the state or national government to an inventor or their assignee in exchange for public disclosure of an invention for a limited period of time. Then a trademark is a distinctive sign or indicator to identify the products or services to consumers by individuals, business organizations or other legal entity to distinguish their products and services from others.

Trademarks require active use and re-registration to be perpetual, but they can be abandoned. It can be canceled or revoked if not continually used. Patents are only given a minimum of twenty years and kept in force by paying renewal or maintenance fees. Yet with a copyright it will last for the life of the author. Both patent holders and copyright owners can’t be abandoned and easier to maintain without taking particular action.

Copyrights are generally enforced as civil matters, yet some criminal sanctions do exist in some jurisdictions. Patents are subject to the challenge of the accused infringer of the validity of the patent, which usually finds the patent invalid. Trademarks that are registered can demonstrate its rights and enforce them through infringement actions. Even when it comes to court issues there are differences that are noticed.

Another obvious difference would have to be seen in connection with what is covered with a copyright, patent, or trademark. Copyrights cover works such as: books, maps, charts, engravings, prints, photographs, paintings, drawings, motion pictures, and computer programs to name a few. Patents are more prevalent with an invention or discovery of things like: biological, business methods, chemicals and software. Trademarks are more wide range, exclusively identifying the commercial source of products and services.

There is a slightly easier way to put all this together. Think of a copyright as specific creative expression. Patents are a functional expression of an idea.  Finally a trademark is any variety of symbols used to indicate the origin or source by being affixed in some matter to the goods or services bought by customers. Even with their differences copyright laws can be used to protect a trademark. On the flip side trademark laws can be useful to protect a patent. Either way all three protect rights to materials, inventions and products and services.

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