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What Is the Difference Between a Copyright, Trademark, and Patent?

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There are different ways to legally protect intellectual property. Three of the most well known ways of doing this is the copyright, the trademark, and the patent. Each of these protects different types of intellectual property and each works differently. It is understandable that those who create something new don’t want others to come along and steal their ideas. Intellectual property law can be very complicated though, and this is why it requires skilled legal experts to ensure protection.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a type of intellectual property protection that can be used to defend artistic work. It covers a range of different creations including; writings, musical compositions, art work, and dramatic compositions. A work that has this copyright can be either published or unpublished.

Copyright cannot offer protection for ideas but only for how the idea has been expressed in the current work. This is easier to understand if we look at an example. It would not be possible to copyright the story idea of how a bad man turns good and saves the world. There are many stories like this and there will likely be many more in the future. It is however possible to copyright a particular story using this theme.

Copyright is automatically given to the owner of an original work in most countries and it lasts for 70 years. It can be hard to prove though and this is why people will take extra efforts to copyright their work.

What is a Trademark?

Most businesses will have a symbol or sign that they use to differentiate their goods from those of the competition. A good example of this is the apple symbol used by Apple Mac. If the competition just used this symbol on their goods then they could fool customers. A trademark then works by offer legal protection against others using a registered trademark. A lot of effort can go into making a trademark recognizable so it is important to protect it.

What is a Patent?

A patent is used to protect some type of invention. It is not a lifetime protection and in most instances it will only last a couple of decades. So basically a patent is a legal protection that offers certain rights to an inventor that will last a certain amount of time. Filing a patent can be expensive and time consuming. The first part of this involves ensuring that nobody else has invented anything similar. Some types of technology can be harder to patent than others; for example computer software is notoriously difficult to get protection for. Different countries around the world will have their own patent laws. This means that even if you manage to get a patent granted in one country it doesn’t necessary mean that you will have global protection. If a product is likely to be an international success then it is usual to apply for patents in lots of different jurisdictions. This can be an expensive process.

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Meet the Author

Anthony Carter currently resides in Fife, Scotland with his wife Lisa, and their three wonderful children. As a senior editor for various publications, if he's not reading and writing, you would find him photographing and traveling to some of the most far-flung locations around the world.

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