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Compare Intellectual Property Protections

Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are all designed to protect you and your intellectual property. But how do you know which protections you need?

Comparison Chart

Who typically seeks this protection?
What does it protect?
What benefits does registration/filing include?
How long does it last?

Copyright

Who typically seeks this protection?
Authors, artists, choreographers, architects, and other creative professionals.
What does it protect?
Original works of authorship, including books, articles, plays, songs, photographs, sculptures, choreography, architectural works, sound recordings, motion pictures, and other creative works. An idea itself cannot be copyrighted. A work must be in a fixed, tangible form to be protected.
What benefits does registration/filing include?
Copyright registration greatly enhances one's rights by providing legal evidence and public notice of ownership, and by allowing the copyright holder to bring suit in federal court in cases of infringement.
How long does it last?
A copyright typically lasts the author's lifetime, plus an additional 70 years. The term cannot be extended or renewed.

Trademark

Who typically seeks this protection?
Business and product owners.
What does it protect?
Any name, word, slogan, symbol, design, and/or image that identifies a business or brand and distinguishes it from others.
What benefits does registration/filing include?
Trademark registration greatly enhances one's rights by providing legal evidence and public notice of ownership. It confers nationwide exclusive rights to the mark and allows the holder to bring federal lawsuits against infringers. In addition, only registered trademarks can use the ® symbol.
How long does it last?
A trademark registration can potentially have an unlimited term, but must be renewed every ten years. The owner may renew the registration as long as the mark remains in continued use.

Utility Patent

Who typically seeks this protection?
Inventors.
What does it protect?
Inventions with a new or improved function, such as machines, processes, or chemical compositions.
What benefits does registration/filing include?
Filing a utility patent gives its owner the exclusive right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing the protected invention. If the creator does not file, then the law offers them no default protection of the invention.
How long does it last?
A full non-provisional utility patent protects an invention for 20 years. It cannot be renewed. A provisional patent may be filed prior to that and lasts for 1 year.

Design Patent

Who typically seeks this protection?
Inventors and designers.
What does it protect?
Any new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture that does not affect the article's function.
What benefits does registration/filing include?
Filing a design patent gives its owner the exclusive right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing the protected design. If the creator does not file, then the law offers them no default protection of the design.
How long does it last?
A design patent protects a design for 14 years. It cannot be renewed.

Copyright, Trademark and Patent: What's the Difference?

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Choose Trademark, Copyright, or Patent Protection - Protect Your Intellectual Property

1. Select the IP protection that's best for you.

Protect Your Intellectual Property - Fill Out a Simple Questionnaire

2. Fill out a simple questionnaire to get started.

Trademark, Copyright, or Patent Application - Preparation and Filing with the State

3. We'll work with you to assemble your application and file it with the appropriate government agency.


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Common questions

What's the difference between a copyright and a trademark?
Copyrights generally protect original creative works, such as books, movies, songs, paintings, photographs, web content, and choreography. Trademarks, on the other hand, generally protect brand names, slogans, and logos that are used in the marketplace, and help consumers distinguish among products.
What works are eligible for copyright protection?
Copyright protects "original works of authorship" that are fixed in a tangible form. Broadly, this includes literary works, musical works, dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings and architectural works.
What are the benefits of a registered trademark?
Some trademark rights are established simply by using the mark. However, these rights are limited and generally apply only to a limited geographical area. Registering for a federal trademark greatly expands your rights, and allows you to bring a federal suit against others who may be infringing on your trademark.
What is the difference between a design patent and a utility patent?
A design patent protects the unique appearance of a manufactured item—how it looks—and a utility patent protects an item's function – how it works. A utility patent may also be granted to protect a unique process or chemical compound. Some inventions may qualify for both design and utility patent protection, if both the design and the function are unique, and the design does not affect the article's function.

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Compare Intellectual Property Protection - Copyright, Trademark, Utility Patent, Design Patent

Before you can start protecting your ideas, you need to determine which type of IP protection is right for you. The intellectual property comparison chart above will help you learn about the different types of intellectual property protection, including copyrights, trademarks, utility patents, and design patents. Find out who typically seeks each type of protection, what types of intellectual property each one protects, and the benefits of registering or filing each one. Trademark registration is important for business and product owners who want to protect words, slogan, symbols, designs, and / or images that identify a business and distinguish it from others. Copyright registration protects books, articles, plays, songs, photographs, and other original works of authorship. A utility patent is for inventions with a new or improved function while a design patent protects the ornamental design of a functional item. Knowing which type of intellectual property protection you need is the first step; registering or filing for IP protection is the next step which can be confusing. That's where LegalZoom comes in. LegalZoom can help you register a trademark, register a copyright, or file a provisional patent application online. If you need help deciding which intellectual property protection is right for you a LegalZoom legal plan attorney can answer your questions and help you decide.