Understanding Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights

  • Oct 14 2017
  • |
  • Category: News

Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are often confused as being interchangeable, as all constitute types of intellectual property. However, each of the aforementioned forms of intellectual property affords the owner distinct rights and protections. Below is an overview of patents, trademarks, and copyrights.


A patent is a property right granted to the creator of an invention. Patents are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. United States patents generally last 20 years and are effective only within the United States. Patent holders possess the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the subject of the patent. Once a patent is issued, the patent holder is responsible for enforcing the same. The 3 types of patents include:

  • Utility patents – Utility patents are available for the protection of new and useful machines, processes, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter, and useful improvements to all of the above.
  • Design patents – Design patents are available for the protection of original, new, and ornamental designs for articles of manufacture.
  • Plant patents – Plant patents are available for the protection of the invention or discovery of distinct and new varieties of plants.


A trademark is a symbol, word, name, or device that is used in trade to indicate the source of goods and to distinguish the same from the products of others. While trademark rights can prevent others from using a mark similar to that of the trademark holder, such rights cannot prevent others from making or selling the same or similar goods. Registration is not required for a trademark to be valid. However, any trademark used in foreign or interstate commerce may be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.


Copyrights provide protection to the creators of published and unpublished original works of the literary, artistic, and musical variety. However, copyrights protect the form of expression contained in a copyrighted work as opposed to the subject matter of the work itself. The owner of a copyright is granted the exclusive right to reproduce, create works based on, distribute, perform, and display the copyrighted work. All copyrights are registered with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.

New York Patent, Trademark, and Copyright Attorneys

The patent, trademark, and copyright registration processes can be complicated. In addition, failure to comply with registration laws can result in wasted time, money, and unprotected intellectual property. Therefore, we highly recommend consulting with an experienced New York intellectual property attorney prior to attempting to register your intellectual property. If you are the creator of intellectual property of any kind, please consider contacting Carter, DeLuca, Farrell & Schmidt to discuss your situation. Our team of experienced New York intellectual property attorneys will ensure that you are fully informed and comfortable with each step of the process to protect your intellectual property. Please contact us for a consultation.