Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Are Patents Different From Copyrights And Trademarks?

By Mariel Taylor

Three crucial legal frameworks - copyrights, trademarks and patents - arise from the same fundamental legal requirement. These are types of intellectual property that protect the interest of inventors and creators. However, there are various points of differences among the three.

The main difference is that the nature of rights accorded by patents is for a tangible or theoretical invention, while that provided by a copyright is for an original document, or image envisaged by the author. A trademark, on the contrary, can be a word or a logo that can distinguish products of one company from the others.

Secondly, patents have strictly defined liabilities, which offer the maximum protection against any sort of infringement. This means that any infringement of the patent, whether deliberate or not, would result in prosecution of the person infringing it. Therefore, patents accord higher protection than copyrights and trademarks that permit certain exceptions like fair use etc.

A patent is normally awarded for a span of 20 years, after which it goes into the public domain. On the other hand, trademarks can continue for an infinite time period while copyrights are usually valid for 60-70 years from the date the work was created. Further, patents can protect your intellectual property interests in a very comprehensive manner. Put simply, a copyright protects the mere expression of ideas, whereas patents can protect the underlying principles and techniques behind the creation as well.

Finally, the processes for submitting an application for these different legal mechanisms are also very different from each other. For example, the application for a patent requires detailed explanation of the invention, which is not required in case of copyrights or trademarks. However, a copyright application demands a replica of the original work, while a trademark needs a thorough search for similar marks in existence in the market.

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