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The Ignition Program: Intellectual Property and Patents

This guide is for students in all majors who are participating in the Ignition Program.

Trademark vs. Patent vs. Copyright

Which do you need?

  • A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.  Patentable materials include machines, manufactured articles, industrial processes, and chemical compositions. 
  • A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
  • A copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.  The duration of copyright protection depends on several factors.  For works created by an individual, protection lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years. 
  • A service mark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Some examples include: brand names, slogans, and logos. The term "trademark" is often used in a general sense to refer to both trademarks and service marks.  
  • Unlike patents and copyrights, trademarks do not expire after a set term of years.  Trademark rights come from actual “use” (see below). Therefore, a trademark can last forever - so long as you continue to use the mark in commerce to indicate the source of goods and services. 
  • A trademark registration can also last forever - so long as you file specific documents and pay fees at regular intervals.

Trademark, Patent, or Copyright? (n.d.). Retrieved November 26, 2016, from https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics/trademark-patent-or-copyright

Patent and Trademark Search

USPTO Explains the Difference Between Patents and Trademarks

Published on Nov 25, 2014

This video provides a quick and easy breakdown of the three main types of intellectual property: trademarks, patents, and copyrights. You’ll learn how trademarks differ from domain names and business names. By the end of the video, you’ll understand how to use each type of intellectual property to protect a different aspect of your business.

Basic Facts about Trademarks

Published on Aug 30, 2013

This video is a must for anyone interested in starting a business to sell a product or offer a service. It highlights the important role of trademarks in that process, including a discussion of how trademarks, patents, copyrights, domain names, and business name registrations all differ. It gives guidelines on how to select the right mark--one that is both federally registrable and legally protectable. It also explains the benefits of federal registration and suggests resources if you need help with your application. By the end of the video, you'll understand why having a trademark component of your business plan is critical to your success.