What Entrepreneurs Need to Know about IP: Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights

AUTHOR BIO: Marsha Kelly sold her first business for more than a million dollars. She has shared hard-won experiences as a successful serial entrepreneur on her Best4Businesses blog http://best4businesses.com. Marsha also regularly posts business tips, ideas, and suggestions as well as product reviews for business readers. As a serial entrepreneur who has done “time” in corporate America, Marsha has learned what products and services really work well in business today. You can learn from her experiences from shopping the internet for tools, supplies, and information to build your businesses and improve lives financially.
As an entrepreneur and small business owner, a number of your most valuable assets are intangible, rather than physical or real. Thus they are your intellectual property. As you protect your expensive real property with insurance, legal records, and locks, you can safeguard your ideas and creations similarly with patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

What Entrepreneurs Need to Know about IP: Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights

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What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property (IP) is the creation of the human mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols, names and images used in commerce. This includes your products, company name, and logo design.

Different types of IP, discussed in this article are copyrights, patents, and trademarks.

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Trademark vs. Copyright vs. Patent

To begin with, you’ll have to be aware of the difference between various kinds of intellectual property security. Do you require a patent or copyright or trademark for your particular company usage?


Creators like artist, songwriters, and writers can file for copyrights to safeguard their work. Copyrights protect art, songs, records, written works, photos, film, and performance art. Copyrights continue for the duration of the author plus an additional 70 years. These rights are for both published and unpublished works.

The primary intention of the copyright is to protect the ingenuity, work and time of this artist. The US copyright act gives the artist those exclusive rights:

  • Duplication rights
  • capability to make derivative works — brand new functions based on the first work
  • distribute copies of this work by sale, rent, or other transfers of possession
  • perform the work publicly
  • display the work publicly


The objective of a patent is to protect creations. It’s a right which is given to the inventor by the US Federal Government that enables, you, the creator to stop others from selling, manufacturing or using your creation for a specified period. The US patent system was designed to promote devices which are distinct and encourage society.

There are three distinct kinds of patents:

  1. Utility patent — The most frequent type of patent for new machines, substances, manufacturing procedures. The patent coverage is for its usefulness or usage of this innovation.
  2. Design patent — Protects the look of objects manufactured either the ornamentation or general shape composition.
  3. Plant patents — Invention of growing plant types including hybrids.

All creations must meet specific standards for patent eligibility.

The innovation must be equally “book and non-obvious.” This implies it has to differ from different devices and can’t be sold or improved by another person within one year of the application date.

Utility patents require the inventor proves that the viability of his or her creation. There has to be a valuable use, and the thing has to be operable.


Most business owners utilize trademarks for company names, logos, and symbols which identify their commercially available services and products. While trademarks do safeguard the name of this item, they don’t shield the merchandise from being a marketed under a different name by an unscrupulous competitor.

A good example is that Burger King can copyright Whopper because of their particular hamburger sandwich, it does not stop different restaurants from serving hamburger sandwich. However, those restaurants cannot call them whoppers.

FAQ About intellectual property

Here are some FAQs about the intellectual property:

How do I get a patent pending on my merchandise?

As soon as you’ve filed a patent application to the United States patent and trademark office, your goods are considered patent pending. You’re permitted to describe your innovation as pending until you receive final acceptance.

Though you aren’t legally required to place patent pending in your product packaging, many company lawyers imply you do. This is because you cannot start a lawsuit for patent pending breach unless the merchandise informs the others of your patent pending status.

Can I trademark my business logo?

Yes, the United States trademark and patent office specify a signature as “a word, phrase, logo, or design, or combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from people from a different,”i.e., your trademark logo. Your Trademark rights start when you set your emblem into the industrial market. This means when you advertise your product with your logo, your rights have started in law.

So while you are not required to register your trademark with the US patent office, it’s a good idea to do this for these reasons:

  • U.S. Customs and border defense will confiscate any bogus or trademark infringing foreign products
  • Safety under the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which prevents other people from utilizing domain names which are identical or confusingly similar to a trademarked name
  • Right to an infringement lawsuit in federal court, instead of state court.
  • Recognized as the proprietor of the trademark throughout the USA

What’s the distinction between a utility and design patent?

The main difference between both of these kinds of patents is a utility patent protects the way in which the innovation is utilized and operates, even though a design patent protects the way in which the apparatus seems. Design patents protect the decorative appearance of the product, including its form and surface.

Can I copyright my business name?

No, you will want to trademark your company name. Copyrights designed to protect works of art; trademarks are for the security of commercially employed product and brand names.

Further Reading:
What you don’t know about trademarks could hurt your business

United States Patent and Trademark Office

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