What's the difference: Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights?

April M. Mosby, Esq.

Often many people confuse the purpose of a patent, trademark and/or copyright. Yet, the protection stemming from each differs vastly.

1 – Patents

For example, you will need a utility patent if you have invented any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof (such as software, a mechanical device, or any instrument having a specific function). In the alternative, you will need a design patent if you have come up with a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture (such as a handbag, a tennis shoe, the design of a cell phone, etc.).

Get the guide

Need Some Help With Outsourcing Patent Prep & Pros ?

Shorten your invention capture, make the most of your resources, and maximize your impact with Monarch.

Schedule A Consult

2 – Trademarks

In contrast, you will need a federal trademark registration for a word, name, symbol, or device that is used by your company while you are selling goods or services in commerce. Your mark must be used to indicate the source of the goods or services; and to distinguish them from the goods/services of others.

3 – Copyrights

Lastly, you will need a copyright if you have an original literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, or other intellectual work (e.g. song, book, sculpture, etc.). It gives you the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.


As a business owner, you may have a product that may need all three rights protected. For example, if you have come up with a new design for a motor, the innovative concept of your motor will need to protected using a utility patent. The trademark that you plan to use when you sell the motor to the vehicle manufacturer will need to be federally registered as a trademark. Additionally, the instruction manual may need to be registered at the Copyright Office as a copyrighted literary work.

Can you think of a few things that need to be protected for your business?

If you have any questions, please feel free to schedule a consult below. We would be more than happy to answer your questions.

About the Author

April M. Mosby, is the founder of Monarch IP Group, PLLC. With over 20 years of Patent Prosecution and Appellate experience preparing, prosecuting, and maintaining over 300 domestic and international patent applications (drafting over 60 Prevailing Appeal Briefs and over 600 Amendment Responses), April has protected client’s products and services in a timely cost-efficient manner with several Fortune 500 clients and various others. During her tenure on the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO, she drafted over 500 Appellate Decisions. Her current practice also includes Trademark Prosecution and Copyright Prosecution. Additionally, she has substantive experience in Patent Licensing.