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Compare Intellectual Property Protections


Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are all designed to protect you and your intellectual property. But how do you know which protections you need?


Copyright Trademark Utility Patent Design Patent
Who typically seeks this protection? Authors, artists, choreographers, architects, and other creative professionals. Business and product owners. Inventors. Inventors and designers.
What does it protect? Original works of authorship, including books, articles, plays, songs, photographs, sculptures, choreography, architectural works, sound recordings, motion pictures, and other creative works. An idea itself cannot be copyrighted. A work must be in a fixed, tangible form to be protected. Any name, word, slogan, symbol, design, and/or image that identifies a business or brand and distinguishes it from others. Inventions with a new or improved function, such as machines, processes, or chemical compositions. Any new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture that does not affect the article's function.
What benefits does registration/filing include? Copyright registration greatly enhances one's rights by providing legal evidence and public notice of ownership, and by allowing the copyright holder to bring suit in federal court in cases of infringement. Trademark registration greatly enhances one's rights by providing legal evidence and public notice of ownership. It confers nationwide exclusive rights to the mark and allows the holder to bring federal lawsuits against infringers. In addition, only registered trademarks can use the ® symbol. Filing a utility patent gives its owner the exclusive right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing the protected invention. If the creator does not file, then the law offers them no default protection of the invention. Filing a design patent gives its owner the exclusive right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing the protected design. If the creator does not file, then the law offers them no default protection of the design.
How long does it last? A copyright typically lasts the author's lifetime, plus an additional 70 years. The term cannot be extended or renewed. A trademark registration can potentially have an unlimited term, but must be renewed every ten years. The owner may renew the registration as long as the mark remains in continued use. A full non-provisional utility patent protects an invention for 20 years. It cannot be renewed. A provisional patent may be filed prior to that and lasts for 1 year. A design patent protects a design for 14 years. It cannot be renewed.
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