Patents and copyrights are intangible assets made by inventors and creators respectively. Both are types of intellectual property that can be protected by law. Subsequently, the law enables owners of the patent and copyright to commercialize and financially benefit from what they made.
Comparing patents and copyright is like comparing apples and oranges. You can group them together since both are intellectual property, but they are still not the same thing. Both have distinct characteristics, limits, applications, and features that make them different from each other. That being said, we further discuss what patents and copyrights are and examine their differences.
A patent is a property right granted to inventors for their novel and original inventions. Inventions can be tangible or intangible. It can be a device, method, composition, or process. As long as the invention is novel, non-obvious, and useful, it can be patented. Some examples of inventions are drug compositions, software, machines, tools, plants, and so on.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues the patent to the inventors, and in turn, inventors are granted rights to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing their invention without their consent.
Generally, a patent lasts for about 20 years from the date the application was filed. It is a territorial right so the patent can only be used in a country where it is filed and granted.
There are three types of patents:
1. Utility Patents
A type of patent for new and useful inventions that can last for 20 years. It can be tools, compositions, software, and so on. (e.g. shampoo, applications, machines)
2. Design Patent
A type of patent for new, original, and ornamental design that can last for 14 or 15 years. It can also include the shape or appearance of an object. (e.g. furniture, packaging, containers)
3. Plant Patents
A type of patent for a new and distinct variety of plant that can last for 20 years. (e.g. Smooth Angel rose plant, tuber-propagated plants)
How to obtain a patent?
To obtain a patent, you need to file an application to the USPTO and have your application examined by an examiner.
However, the application process itself is already a strenuous task and can be quite expensive. Before you even begin preparing your application, you already have several tasks you need to accomplish. Among these are determining whether your invention is eligible, and deciding whether you want to hire an agent or attorney to help you along the process.
Hiring a patent agent or attorney is highly advisable because patenting requires skills and knowledge of the patent law. The patent application is a complicated process, so having an agent or attorney with you makes the process a lot easier. There are several patent attorney serving San Francisco, New York, California, and other states near you that you can contact and reach out to.
The general process of how to get a patent usually involves:
- determining whether your invention is patentable;
- choosing the type of patent best suited for your invention;
- deciding whether you want to hire an agent/attorney or not;
- preparing your application and paying for filing fees;
- submitting your application;
- having your application reviewed by an examiner;
- responding to Office Action, when necessary;
- paying fees for patent issuance;
- receiving your patent; and
- paying fees to maintain your patent.
What are the benefits of obtaining it?
Having a patent gives you a competitive edge in the market. It allows you to secure your position in the market and prevent others from copying or competing with your product.
Besides, patents also add value and quality to your invention, making it look more marketable and profitable to investors. In the end, you can recoup your investment in patenting by commercializing your patent with investors.
Obtaining a patent can be a long, tedious process, but it is all worth it in the end.
Unlike a patent which you still have to file to the USPTO to obtain, copyright automatically protects your original works once it has been created. Some examples of these original works are artistic works such as songs, poetry, movies, novels, and so on. As you can tell from the examples, copyright protects unique and creative intangible works.
Generally, copyright lasts the same length as the life of the one who made it plus another seventy years. As for other works made anonymously or works made for hire, copyright protects it for as long as 95 or 120 years.
How to register your work?
Registering your work is a straightforward process. It is not as complex and costly as filing patents. You can file for a copyright on your own or you can consult with an attorney to help you.
The important thing is that your application must contain these three essential elements:
- a completed application form;
- a nonrefundable filing fee; and
- a non-returnable deposit
(copies of your work registered and “deposited” with the Copyright Office)
What are the benefits of registering your work?
Apart from having a public record of your copyright ownership, one of the most important benefits of registering your work is the ability to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. You are not allowed to file a lawsuit until the Copyright Office issues your registration.
Once you register your work, you become eligible to receive statutory damages and attorney’s fees for copyright infringement of your work.
Registered copyrights can also allow the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize and detain goods violating your registered copyright.
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