Online intellectual property services are popular because so many new entrepreneurs and creators have great ideas—but no idea where to start. It’s easy to get them confused, as there are four different kinds: copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks, and patents. Unfortunately, that confusion nearly doubles regarding patents and trademarks because so many people we work with require both.
Patents and trademarks both have complex application processes and precise criteria. They are very much a race to see who comes up with an idea first, so you have to be proactive. That means working with experienced, talented attorneys who know the ins and outs of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
A patent is used to protect an invention, process, or design. It gives the party exclusive rights to use, sell or license their creation for 20 years. There is no renewal process for a patent, though it is possible to complete a new patent for improved or modified designs if they’re significantly different from the original patent.
A trademark is designed to protect a brand name, logo, slogan, or another identifying aspect of your specific product. To obtain federal trademark protection, you have to do interstate commerce and file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A trademark can last forever, provided it’s renewed every ten years and continuously used in commerce.
Those apply to artistic works like song lyrics, novels, plays, and even some types of software code. The types of intellectual property described above are mostly handled by the USPTO. Copyrights, on the other hand, are handled by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. It’s relatively easy to file one yourself. In most cases, your need for a lawyer will stem from someone infringing on it, so it’s not an area we typically handle.
The USPTO governs the issuance of patents and trademarks. It’s actually a constitutionally required agency, as it was established to further “the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” The goal behind it was to give people who invent new things some exclusive benefits, hoping that would drive innovation.
And it certainly has. As of 2020, there were 3.34 million active patents in the US and nearly 900,000 registered trademarks. Today, no serious company would bother to create IP without going through the USPTO first. The process is a lot easier when you go informed, and that starts by choosing between their two primary offerings: patents or trademarks.
There is a lot of overlap between patents and trademarks, which can get pretty confusing when determining the right one to pursue. Both protect unique ideas, but for different reasons and in different ways.
So at the basic level, patents protect new ideas, trademarks protect branded assets. However, the application and review processes for these are very different, so it’s essential to choose the right path.
Patents specifically cover new inventions, processes, manufacturing methods, compositions of matter, formulas, or other unique ideas. When you are granted a patent, you will have 15 to 20 years of exclusive use for whatever purpose you desire. You can choose to manufacture the product yourself, license or assign the rights or sell the patent outright.
Before you even start on that, you’ll need to review the four criteria of a patentable idea. They are novelty, utility, subject matter eligibility, and non-obviousness.
Novelty: Is the idea unique?
Utility: Is the idea useful?
Non-obvious: Is the idea one that only the inventor could create?
Eligible subject matter: Does the idea fall into a category not excluded by law?
If an idea meets the four criteria, then it is patentable. Of course, how successful you are in achieving that goal will depend on the proof you submit. A patent examiner reviews those four criteria in any application submitted. It’s up to them to determine if they meet the standard. As a result, it can get pretty subjective.
With these four components, you’re all but guaranteed the best online intellectual property services when seeking a patent or trademark. These two are the most complex when it comes to protecting your rights, so it’s always best to work with experienced professionals. They can help you overcome many hurdles as you work to protect your IP.
Bold Patents offers the best online intellectual property services for patents and trademarks. Reach out to us online or call 800-849-1913 to see how we can help you.