Primer on Intellectual Primer for Entrepreneurs : Patents vs Trademarks vs Copyrights

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, a number of the most valuable assets are intangible and are considered, rather than real or physical, intellectual property. Just as you protect your precious tangible property with insurance, legal documents, and locks, you may safeguard your ideas and creations similarly.

In fact, business evaluation experts value intangible assets such as trademarks as amongst the most valuable company assets. Having a duly registered trademark is especially helpful for branding and marketing success in selling goods and services.

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Trademark vs. Copyright vs. Patent

To begin with, you’ll need to know the difference between the various types of intellectual property security. Do you need a patent or copyright or trademark for your particular company usage?



Smart business owners get trademarks for names, logos, and symbols that identify their commercially available products and services, i.e. their brand names. Trademarks only protect the brand name of the item; they don’t shield the exact merchandise from being a marketed under a different name by an unscrupulous competitor.

A good example is that Starbucks may copyright Frappucino for their iced mixed beverages, it doesn’t prevent different restaurants from serving iced blended drinks. But, those restaurants cannot call them a Frappucino.


Patents – Utility and Design

The purpose of a patent is to protect your inventions. It’s a right that is given to the inventor by the federal authorities that allows the creator to prevent others from marketing, manufacturing or using their creation for a set period. The US patent system was designed to encourage devices which are different and support society.

There are three different kinds of patents:

  1. Utility patent — The most frequent type of patent for new machines, chemicals, manufacturing processes. The patent protection is for its usefulness or usage of the merchandise.
  2. Design patent — Protects the layout of objects manufactured either the ornamentation or general design.
  3. Plant patents — Invention of growing plant varieties including hybrids.

All creations must meet specific criteria for patent eligibility.

The invention must be equally “book and non-obvious.” This means it must differ from other devices and can’t be publicly sold or improved by another designer within one year of the patent application date.

Utility patents require the inventor proves the usefulness of his or her creation. There has to be a valuable use, and the thing must be operable.



Creators like artist, songwriters, and writers can file for copyrights to their work. Copyrights protect physical works of art, music, recordings, written works, photos, film, and performance art. Copyrights last for the lifetime of the author plus an additional 70 years. These rights are for both published and unpublished works.

The primary intention of the copyright is to protect the ingenuity, effort and time of this artist. The US copyright act gives the owner these exclusive rights:

  • Reproduction rights for its work
  • ability to make derivative works — new works based on the first work
  • distribute copies of the work by sale, rent, or other transfers of ownership
  • perform the work publicly
  • display the work publicly

FAQ About intellectual property


Can I trademark my logo design?

Yes, the United States trademark and patent office specify a signature as “a word, phrase, logo, or design, or combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those from another,”i.e., your trademark logo. Your Trademark rights start when you set your logo into the industrial marketplace. This means when you advertise your product with your logo, your rights have begun in common law.

However if you do not perform thorough due diligence search, of that product or company name, before you starting using it commercially you could find later that another company is already using it and they could sue you for trademark infringement.

Most trademark infringement cases do not go to court; they are settled by ceasing letters. This legal document details the trademarked rights and explains how you violated, and can now correct, the infringement. If you comply with this request, the case is usually closed. If your user has caused harm and hardship to the trademark owner, they may seek to collect funds for damages in a lawsuit.

So while you are not required to register your trademark with the US patent office It’s a Good Idea to do this for these reasons:

  1. U.S. Customs and border defense will confiscate any bogus or trademark infringing foreign products
  2. Protection under the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which prevents other people from utilizing domain names that are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark
  3. Ability to an infringement lawsuit in federal court, instead of state court.
  4. Recognized as the proprietor of that trademark throughout the USA


What’s the reason for a utility and design patent?

The primary difference between these two types of patents is a utility patent protects the way the invention is utilized and operates, while a design patent protects the way the apparatus seems. Design patents protect the decorative appearance of the product, including its form and surface.


How do I get a patent pending on my product?

After you’ve applied for a patent to the United States Patent and Trademark office, your products can be labeled Patent Pending. You are allowed to describe your invention as pending until you receive final approval.

While you are not legally required to place patent pending in your product packaging, most business lawyers suggest you do. This is because you cannot start a lawsuit for patent pending violation unless the product informs the others of your patent pending status


Do I want to copyright my business name?

No, You want to trademark your business name. Copyrights are for the protection of works of art; trademarks are for the security of commercially employed brand and product names.


Further Reading:
What you don’t know about trademarks could hurt your business



United States Patent and Trademark Office


About the Author:

Marsha Kelly sold her first business for more than a million dollars. She has shared hard-won experiences as a successful serial entrepreneur on her Best4Businesses blog Marsha also regularly posts business tips, ideas, and suggestions as well as product reviews for business readers. As a serial entrepreneur who has done “time” in corporate America, Marsha has learned what products and services really work well in business today. You can learn from her experiences from shopping the internet for tools, supplies, and information to build your businesses and improve lives financially.

About the Author: Adarsh M

Hi, I'm Adarsh.M, a blogger and web designer. I think blogging is the best medium to share the knowledge we have with everyone. I write about blogging, make money online, seo, and tech related topics. Share the knowledge.

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