Patents, trademarks and copyrights are all forms of legal protection that you can take to prevent people from stealing your ideas. But what is the difference between them – and which is best for your individual circumstances? This post explains the differences and when to apply for each.
Patents are largely for inventors. They give you ownership of rights over certain features or processes that are unique to your invention. Anyone who wants to copy your invention must seek permission from you first. If they don’t seek permission, you are legally entitled to sue them.
If you’re designing a product and you’ve come up with a unique feature or process that you think people may want to imitate, it could be worth applying for a patent. You can use the help of a patent attorney when applying for a patent. It’s important that no other patent already exists for your invention – there are millions of patents already in place, so it’s important to do your research.
Trademarks are used to protect a brand. They give you exclusive rights to use a certain logo, brand name, slogan, color scheme or even a pattern. If you don’t trademark your brand, it will be much harder to file a lawsuit if another company uses the same or a similar brand name or the same logo. This could be important for preventing another company from taking your brand identity to steal your customers or harm your reputation.
You can apply for a trademark with the help of a trademark attorney. As with patents, there are millions of trademarks already in circulation, so it’s important to do your research to make sure that your brand isn’t infringing on someone else’s trademark.
Copyrights are designed largely to protect art and intellectual property such as music or photographs. In most cases, you don’t have to apply for copyright – any art that you create is automatically copyrighted. That said, there are exceptions and some artists like to take further steps to strengthen this copyright.