Difference Between Copyright & Patent

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Although "patent" and "copyright" are commonly used terms, there is some confusion about the difference between the terms and how they are used. The U.S. Commerce Department oversees both the Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.


A copyright is exclusive rights to a particular expression, idea, information or original creation. The copyright symbol, ©, appears next to the work to serve as notice the work is under the protection of the Copyright Office.


A patent protects an invention, process, device or method, which is deemed useful and new. Weaponry and other questionable inventions would be reviewed individually. This protection prevents others from copying these products.


Patents provide protection for 10 years. Copyrights vary but are generally the life of the author plus 70 years. Both can be renewed and are only covered in the United States. There are protections internationally and can be applied for separately.


Copyrights cover songs, books, films and photos, and trademarks would cover the newest mouse trap and other tangible objects.


Slogans, bare phrases or trade names are not covered by patents and copyrights. You can obtain a trademark in addition to a copyright for these types of works.


Both the Patent Office and the Copyright Office allow searches of protected works.


There is a process to apply for both copyrights and patents, and fees vary according to the item being submitted. Consult the appropriate agencies for more details.


About the Author

Denise L'Hommedieu has more than 20 years of experience in sales and marketing. In that capacity, she has gained experience in many industries. Along with corporate writing, L'Hommedieu is a freelance writer who writes for eHow and SEOs for the web. She is also a digital artist.