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Patents, trademarks and copyrights: What’s the difference?

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2023 | Business-Employment

Intellectual property (IP) is an essential aspect of any business in the modern era, and it’s crucial to understand the different types of IP protections available.

You’ve probably heard of three of the most common forms of IP protection – patents, trademarks and copyrights – but do you know what they do or how they differ? Here are some of the basics:


A patent is a legal right granted to an inventor to prevent others from making, using or selling an invention for a set period (usually 20 years from the date of filing). Patents protect new inventions and innovative products, processes and designs. They can even protect plants that have been asexually reproduced, which is a growing field of interest and a concern in many industries (particularly the cannabis industry).


A trademark can be a symbol, phrase, design or word that both identifies the source of goods or services and sets them apart from those coming from other (often inferior or “copycat”) companies. Trademarks protect a company’s brand identity and reputation by differentiating its products or services from its competitor’s products or services. Trademarks can be words, phrases, symbols, sounds and designs that distinguish the source of a specific good or service – like the iconic golden arches associated with McDonald’s or the NBC chimes.


A copyright is a legal right that protects original works of authorship. This includes books, music, films, art and software, among other things. Copyrights grant the owner the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform and display or use the original work. A copyright lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years after their death.

While there are differences between patents, trademarks and copyrights, they are all essential parts of the modern world – and they can be the best way to protect your company’s intellectual property from theft, misuse or loss – along with nondisclosure agreements. When your young business has a lot on the line, don’t take a chance: Find out more about what it takes to keep your most valuable business assets safer.