The three forms of Intellectual Property protection, which are Trademarks Copyrights and Patents, usually protect completely different aspects of a design, brand and overall creation. This article will discuss the foregoing differences.
Federal Statute 15 U.S.C. § 1127 defines a trademark as, “any word, name, symbol, or design, or any combination thereof, used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another and to indicate the source of the goods.” Hence, any brand name, logo or color, which is used as an identity marker of a service or product, is a trademark. For example, the marks Prada, Sony and Ikea are all trademarks because they are distinctive marks that are used as brand names. Some companies may encompass several different trademarks. For example, the company Tiffany’s has two identities for which it obtained a trademark, the actual word Tiffany’s and its baby blue color that is used for all their packaging. Furthermore, the mark Chanel also has several trademarks such as the actual word Chanel and its double C logo.
On the contrary, the U.S. Copyright Office defines a Copyright as “A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for “original works of authorship”, including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. “Copyright” literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright.” Hence, books, movies, computer software, songs and paintings are the type of creations for which the creator can obtain a Copyright. In lay mans terms, a Copyright is generally applied to artistic, visual and/or literary creations. In addition, Copyrights contain moral rights and economic rights. Moral rights include the right to be listed as an author and the right to the integrity of the work. Moral rights can be waived, but they cannot be assigned to others. The author does not lose these rights when they grant the right to publish or copied. Nevertheless, unlike in many countries abroad, fashion designs are not afforded Copyright protection in the US. There are some minor exceptions that exist.
Furthermore, a patent grants the patent holder the exclusive right to exclude others from making, using, importing, and selling the patented innovation for a limited period of time. The U.S. Patent Act, 35 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq., was enacted by Congress under its Constitutional grant of authority to secure for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their discoveries. See Article I, Section 8, Clause 8. One might think that Patents sound similar to Copyrights and they would not be mistaken. However, Copyrights refer to the expression of an idea, such as an artistic work, meanwhile Patents refer to an actual invention. Patentable materials include machines, manufactured articles, industrial processes, and chemical compositions.
So if we would apply all three forms of Intellectual Property protection to a company like Nike, a trademark would be applied to itsbrand name Nike and its swoosh logo, a copyright can be applied to it’s advertising campaigns (print or commercials) and a patent can be applied to its footwear sole structure.
Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/patent