What is the difference between a patent and a trademark?

Intellectual property is one of the most obscure areas of law, and many business owners, eager to protect their IP, need to know what protections patents and trademarks offer.  Often, you will be best served by consulting with a Chicago patent attorney about your intellectual property.  However, this provides an overview of the protections afforded by patents and trademarks.

A patent protects inventions.  There are actually three types of patents, utility patents, design patents, and plant patents.  Plant patents protect new asexually reproduced plants, including sports, mutants, hybrids and newly found seedlings, other than tuber propagated plants or plants found in an uncultivated state.

Design patents protect original ornamental designs for articles of manufacture, which includes almost anything that has ever been made, as well as graphical user interfaces for computers, smartphones and tablets as long as a portion of the display is shown.

Utility patents protect inventions that are new and an advancement on the current technology.  A utility patent can be directed to any manufactured good or industrial process based on the function or operation of the product.  Utility patents can be obtained from everything from software applications to transmission systems.  About 90% of the patents that are issued by the United States Patent & Trademark Office are utility patents.

Irrespective of the type of patent, the primary right that is granted by a patent is the right to exclude a competitor from practicing the invention embodied by the patent.

Trademarks, on the other hand, protect a business’s brand.  In particular, trademarks protect brands that are sufficiently distinctive to act as an indicator of the source of goods, services, and other economic activities. Trademark rights can be extremely valuable, and famous marks are frequently copied.  For example, many apparel manufacturers prominently display their marks, and competitors often counterfeit them.

2016-09-20_11-03-21Thanks to our friends and co-contributors at The Law Offices of Konrad Sherinian, LLC for their added insight into patents and trademarks.