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Patents vs. Trademarks: What is the difference between the two?

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2023 | Patent Law

When the subject of “property” comes up, most people imagine tangible assets like personal property (cars, jewelry or real estate and so forth). However, when you have a creation of the mind, such as a work of art or technological innovation, then it is important that you protect it from unauthorized use. And this is where intellectual property (IP) comes in.

Two of the intellectual property protections you can use to protect your creation are patents and trademarks. But how do these IP protections work?

Understanding the difference between a patent and a trademark

A patent allows you to prevent third parties from commercializing your ideas without your approval for a specified time period (usually 20 years). A trademark, on the other hand, is not concerned with how your idea is used. Rather, it protects the name of your product, service, logo as well as other features like sound, color, taste or even smell. Basically, a trademark protects any features that distinguish your product from the competition.

Time difference between patents and trademarks

A patent is generally time-sensitive. This means that you have a limited time to apply for a patent before you can lose the right to do so. In the United States, you have up to 1-year grace period to patent your invention.

Trademarks, on the other hand, do not come with time limits. This means that you can use a trademark for years before seeking a trademark for it. Of course, it makes sense to begin your trademark application as soon as you possibly can.

Still on time sensitivity, patents come with expiry times. A design patent is usually valid for 15 years from the date of the grant. Utility bills, on the other hand, come with a validity period of 20 years.

When it comes to trademarks, however, you may use your trademark indefinitely as long as you continue using the mark and satisfy post-registration requirements.

Every day, many ideas come to mind. When you turn these ideas into creations, you need to protect your work. Find out how you can effectively safeguard your intellectual property from unauthorized use.