CPA Marketing Blog: Trademark, patent, or copyright – what’s the difference?

Why should your small business care about getting protection for your intellectual property?

Many very successful medium to large businesses started out small. Their patents, trademarks, and copyrights are keeping others from infringing on their markets. The search and registration for these legal protections might also let you know whether or not you are infringing on others’ rights before you invest time and money in a name, product, or process.

  • Patent. A patent for your invention is issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A patent gives you the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing your invention for a period of twenty years. If you are looking to obtain a patent, you are well advised to engage the services of an attorney.
  • Copyright. A copyright is protection for literary, dramatic, artistic, musical, and other published or unpublished intellectual works. The current copyright law in the United States generally gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to the use of the copyrighted work for his life plus seventy years.
  • Trademark. A trademark ™ is also known as a servicemark ‘(SM)’ when it refers to a service instead of a product. A “mark” can be a word, phrase, or symbol that is used to distinguish the source of your goods or services from that of others.

Obtaining a patent, copyright, or trademark does not grant you the use of an Internet domain (URL). You would be wise to secure your domain name early on in the planning process.

You may save yourself time and money by engaging expert legal assistance to protect your intellectual property rights.

Arvid Mostad

Arvid Mostad is the President and co-founder of Mostad & Christensen, Inc. Since 1978, M&C's marketing products have helped accounting firms build client loyalty, get more referrals, add value to services, be visible in their community, and keep clients informed.