As a California entrepreneur, it may benefit you to trademark, copyright or patent a product or technology that makes your business unique and gives it a leg up on the competition. There are a number of different methods you might use to protect your intellectual property and keep it from falling into the wrong hands. There are also important differences that exist between the three types of protections.
Per the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the USPTO is the entity that grants patents and registers trademarks. However, if you want to copyright something, you must do this through the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. It is also important that you understand the distinctions that exist between trademarks, patents and copyrights.
If you are trying to protect a specific word, phrase or design that you use in your marketing or other business materials, you may need to establish a trademark. The trademark helps distinguish your product, service or technology from others that might be similar. Trademarking something prevents other businesses from trademarking the same design, word or phrase and gives you grounds to challenge it if they do so.
A new technical invention, such as a new medicine or type of computer technology, might warrant a patent. A patent prevents others from manufacturing, copying or selling the technical invention without your permission.
Copyrights protect original intellectual property that might include books, songs, movie scripts and so on. They give you, the creator, the exclusive right to use and profit from your creation.
There are also other important differences that exist among trademarks, patents and copyrights, including how long each lasts.