Patents & Trademarks & Copyrights Oh My!

I snuck out of the studio today to attend a seminar at my local SBDC, given by Gerry Bodner – a fellow former engineer and a patent attorney of many years standing.

It was an eye-opening presentation, answering many questions I had about protecting intellectual property.  Briefly, there are three types of rights offered to the public by the Federal government, as granted through the Constitution.

The first is a patent, which protects an idea.  The patent applicant must demonstrate that the idea is:

  1. New.
  2. Useful.
  3. Not obvious.

Obtaining a patent is crucial for a marketable invention.  It’s a multi-year process, it’s expensive to file for – and if you have questions, please contact Gerry.  Patent applications are not something I see in my business future.

The next right is the trademark.  The trademark is a unique representation of a business and may be used:

  1. To distinguish a product from others (as in my Leaf a Message Collection™ or Maria Paray™ Jewelry)
  2. Act as a guarantee of quality (Craftsman® – “reliable, sturdy, lifetime warranty,” as per my husband)
  3. As a branding logo (McDonald’s Golden Arches logo, ®)

Notice some of these bear a ™  and some bear a ®.  I never knew that both symbols referred to the same thing – trademarks!  The ™ is usually used when the trademark is not registered; the ® means the trademark has been registered with the government.  Registration involves an application and a search by an examiner at the Patent & Trademark Office to determine if the applied-for trademark is likely to be confused with an earlier registration or pending application.  I may be calling Gerry about registering trademarks, down the line, but for now I’m using the ™ symbol.

The last right is that of copyright.  The copyright is granted to authors of original work and protects the expression of an idea.  Broadly speaking, this covers all creative works – novels, painting,  comic strips and yes, jewelry!  Every original creation is immediately covered by copyright protection, and is designated by the © symbol followed by the year of creation and the author.  It is not necessary that copyrights be registered with the government, however registration is required before any litigation can take place, if there are infringement issues.

So there you have it, my understanding of the bare basics of patents and trademarks and copyrights – not so scary, right?  Thanks for the seminar, Gerry!

(please keep in mind that I’m a jewelry designer and this post does not constitute legal advice – if you have questions about any of the above, please speak to a patent attorney!)

NB:  This post was revised on 12/9/10, with many thanks to Gerry Bodner who was nice enough to call with  clarification of several points.

One Response to Patents & Trademarks & Copyrights Oh My!

  1. Dee December 10, 2010 at 4:18 am #

    great post and useful information..thanks!