Understand Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents

TrademarksWhile studying the whirlwind of laws, words and symbols that relate to different property rights, I felt my head spinning. An article published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office shares clear examples and reminders to help everyday individuals determine the differences between copyrights, trademarks, and patents. These tips will help you understand the importance of the three and the protection they provide.

Copyrights are defined as “a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive right for its use and distribution.” (“Copyright”, 2017) Literary work such as books and articles can be copyrighted, along with sculptures, movies or music. Copyright laws ensure that permission must be requested from the original creator before any of the above listed items are reproduced, or replicated. (staff & staff, 2017) Copyright laws protect things such as Disney movies, Junie B. Jones books, or the infamous Blue Dog paintings by George Rodrigue. This is understandable, these creative artists and writers deserve recognition for their work. They are like everyone else and need to eat or have a phone bill that needs to be paid each month. But as you study copyright laws, the term Fair Use come into play. Fair Use allows limited copying of copyrighted work for educational and research purposes. So, does that mean teachers or researchers are exceptions to the law? Not necessarily. The situation in which the copyrighted material is used must be taken into consideration. The entire copyrighted piece should not be used to make a profit, or change the nature or meaning the creator is trying to convey cannot be altered. Fair use typically refers to educational or nonprofit purposes. (“Copyright Kids!”, 2017)

 A trademark is defined as “a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies a product or service of a particular source from others.” (“Trademark”, 2017). Trademarks are like brands, and can be names such as Michael Khor, that symbolize quality products, or symbols such as the golden arches that tell us a McDonalds is ahead. Catchphrases such as “I’ll be back” from the movie The Terminator is considered a trademark, along with a figure or a mascot such as the Aflac duck that reminds us we need accident insurance. (“Five Classic Examples of Trademark”, 2017)

 Patents usually protect inventions. A patent can be defined as “a right granted to the owner of an invention that prevents others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without his permission.” (“What is a patent?”, 2017) Patents last 20 years, and like copyrights, they protect the ideas or invention of the creator. The first example that comes to mind is athletic shoes. I remember when Nike Air was all the rage, their ideas were patented therefore you could only purchase the comfort of air in your shoes through Nike for a period. Patents also protect computer hardware, and medicines.

So, when referring to these terms, remember;

  • Copyrights protect original artistic works.
  • Trademarks protect brands.
  • Patents protect ideas or inventions.

By recognizing and understanding the difference between the three, hopefully you can accurately determine what you can use, duplicate and share.



 Copyright. (2017). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 23 June 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

Copyright Kids!. (2017). Copyrightkids.org. Retrieved 24 June 2017, from http://www.copyrightkids.org/cbasicsframes.htm

 Five Classic Examples of Trademark. (2017). Intellectual Property Law Blog. Retrieved 24 June 2017, from http://legalteamusa.net/tacticalip/2012/11/13/five-classic-examples-of-trademark/

staff, F., & staff, F. (2017). Copyright Protection – What Are Some Examples?FreeAdvice. Retrieved 24 June 2017, from http://law.freeadvice.com/intellectual_property/copyright_law/qualify_copyright_protection.htm

Trademark. (2017). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 24 June 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark


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