You've written a masterpiece, created a logo for your firm or designed a new line of environmentally friendly swimwear—now what? In order to protect your work, you need to copyright, trademark or patent it. These three forms of protection are explained below.
What is Copyright?
A copyright protects original intellectual work, whether that work is a book, a play, a musical score or anything else created by a person. The creator is deemed to be the owner of that property and has the exclusive right to publish, print or otherwise reproduce it.
The copyright covers the form of expression, but does not protect the subject matter. For example, a writer may write an article about the history of the Golden Gate Bridge. The copyright protects that writer's telling of the history, but does not prevent anyone else from writing their own article about the same bridge. The same goes for an artist that paints the bridge or a musician that writes a song about it.
Copyrights have an expiration date. When that copyright expires it becomes part of the public domain and anyone may reproduce the work. In the United States, anything published before 1923 may be legally reproduced and sold. Items published after that are usually copyrighted for the life of the author plus a set amount of years, depending on the date of publication.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark, sometimes called a service-mark, is a word or name or symbol that identifies a product or a company. Trademark rights prevent any other person or company from using that trademark. Examples would be the distinctive M used in the McDonalds sign or the fanciful red script on a Coca Cola bottle.
While the trademark protects the word, or words in the case of a slogan, or the logo, it does not prevent other people from manufacturing similar items. McDonald's sells hamburgers wrapped in trademarked paper and containers. Another firm may sell hamburgers, wrap them in their own fashion, and be perfectly legal. Coca Cola sells soda. Other firms sell soda, produced under their brand. The trademark does not protect the product.
Trademarks must be renewed to be kept valid. The United States Patent and Trademark Office requires filing of a Declaration of Continued Use every 10 years, along with payment of a renewal fee. Other forms must be filled out if this deadline is missed. Some people opt to use a patent lawyer, both for the initial filing and to keep track of renewal dates so your trademark doesn't accidentally expire.
What is a Patent?
A patent protects an original item that has been invented by an individual or a company. It prevents anyone from manufacturing and selling that item under another brand or logo.
One of the best examples of a patent is the light bulb. Thomas Edison received his patent for the light bulb on January 27, 1880. For a time Edison had a monopoly on the bulb. No one could reproduce or sell one using his design without his consent. In 1910, General Electric came up with a tungsten filament and received its own patent, protecting their altered design. As long as a patented item is sufficiently altered, it may usually be granted its own patent.
Securing a patent is more complicated than either the copyright or the trademark and it's best to seek legal help. First, a patent lawyer can advise you whether you are seeking the right protection. If a patent is needed, a lawyer can help determine if your invention is patentable, what type of patent you need and take you through the entire process. Once a patent is granted, it also must be periodically renewed to remain valid. A patent lawyer can make sure you don't miss the deadlines.
Going through a divorce? I know how you might feel – alone, stressed out, and probably even a little sad due to the loss of the life you have always known. Whether you have children or not, you might even feel a little guilty about the break down of your relationship. But I'm here to tell you that a divorce is not the end of the world. In fact, once you get used to the idea and start to move on with your life, you may find just as much, if not more, happiness than you ever had while you were married! Getting through the proceedings of your divorce in a dignified manner is the first step, and hopefully this website will give you the insight, support, and motivation you need to get through the process as painlessly as possible.