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Trademark, copyright, and patent: what's the difference?

Trademark, copyright, and
patent: what's the difference?

We know intellectual property protection can seem
complicated. We're here to make it simple.

Get the right intellectual
property protection

Trademark
A name, slogan, or logo that distinguishes your product or service from competitors.
Name
“The best burger
in the world”
Slogan
Copyright
Keep your original creative work from being used without your consent.
Books
Songs
Photos
Art
Films
Articles
Software
and more
Patent
Protects how your invention works, or the way your product looks.
Patent Image Patent Image Patent Image

Frequently
asked questions

Copyrights protect original creative works, including books, movies, songs, paintings, photos, web content, and choreography. Trademarks protect business and product names, slogans, and logos to help customers tell brands apart.

What are the benefits of registering your trademark?

When you register your trademark, you get strong nationwide protection and the right to file a federal lawsuit against anyone who copies it.

What's the difference between the ™ symbol and the ® symbol?

Anyone can use the ™ symbol on their trademark, but it doesn't protect it. The ® symbol means your mark is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), giving you all the legal protections that come with it.

What's the difference between a utility patent and a design patent?

A utility patent protects how an invention works. A design patent protects how a product looks. Some inventions may qualify for design and utility patent protection, if both the design and the function are unique and the design doesn't affect the function.

What does a provisional patent application do?

A provisional patent application protects your rights to your invention for up to a year, giving you time to perfect it and/or complete your application for a utility patent. It essentially holds your place in line with the USPTO.

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Intellectual Property Protection – Register a Trademark or Copyright, Apply for a Patent

Protecting your intellectual property is important because it prevents others from capitalizing on your creativity and hard work. LegalZoom can help you with a wide variety of IP services to protect your idea, invention, or original work of art. The three main types of intellectual property protection are trademarks, copyrights, and patents. If you are a business owner who is interested in protecting your business name or logo, you may want to apply for trademark registration. Before spending time and money applying to register a trademark, a comprehensive trademark search is recommended to determine its availability. A comprehensive trademark search looks for any trademarks that may be similar to yours, including those with different spellings. Protection of your books, songs, photographs or other original works of authorship will be enhanced if you register a copyright. Copyright registration helps you establish a public record of the copyright claim and allows you to enforce your copyright in federal court. If you want to patent an idea, you'll need to start by turning your idea into an actual invention. You may then want to file a provisional application for patent to establish your priority filing date with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) which allows you to immediately start labeling your invention "patent pending". LegalZoom can help make the process of applying for a utility patent or design patent easy and affordable. Start protecting your intellectual property by registering a trademark or copyright, filing a patent, or by submitting a provisional patent application online through LegalZoom.