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Covering Your Assets


A Primer on U.S. Intellectual Property Rights

“I’ve learned over the years that many people don’t understand the differences between copyright, trademark, patent and trade secrets. So, I’ve put together a little table that highlights the main differences.” Paul I. Menes Esq.

  Copyright Trademark Patent Trade Secrets
Protects Original creative works Brand identifiers Novel unobvious inventions Confidential proprietary information
Examples Art, music, recordings, software, choreography, movies, content, books Color schemes, packaging design, names, logos, acronyms Manufacturing techniques, formulas, processes Customer lists, business plans, techniques, data, financials
When Rights Obtained Upon Creation First Use in Commerce When Patent Granted Upon Creation
Registration Optional but advisable Optional but advisable Required Unavailable
Its Benefits Public notice of ownership claim, presumption of ownership, can recover attorneys’ fees, statutory damages can sue in Fed. Court, reciprocal protection in some other countries Public notice of ownership claim, presumption of ownership, can also for international ownership rights Monopoly Not Applicable
Term Far over 100 years for new works, varies for existing ones For as long as mark is in use, if registration maintained 20 Years from application date For as long as information remains secret
Approx. Cost to Register $35.00 to a few hundred Thousands Thousands Not Applicable
Proper Marking © (year) (owner) (R) for registered marks TM or SM for unregistered marks Patent (patent #) Patent Pending but only if application filed Clearly mark all trade secret documents “Confidential” or “Trade Secret”