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Copyright, Patent and Trademark Help

The United States Copyright Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office are the go-to places for information regarding your intellectual property. If you are unsure about which office you should register your creation through, there are a few basic things to consider before applying or registering your work. 

The United States Copyright Office registers hundreds of thousands of copyright claims for books, journals, music, movies, sound recordings, software, photographs, and other works of original authorship every year. 

A copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of "original works of authorship" including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly. The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants patents for the protection of inventions and registers trademarks. 

A patent is the grant of a property right to the inventor. Generally, the term of a patent is 20 years from the date the application for the patent was filed. The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States.

A trademark is a word, name, symbol, or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark. 



Copyright is a part of intellectual property law, which protects original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artist, and certain other intellectual works fixed in any tangible means of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated directly or with the aid of a machine or device."

--Exercept from U.S. Copyright Act, U.S. Code, Title 17, Chapter 1, Sect. 102

For information about copyright, please click here.


There are three types of U.S. patents: utility, design, and plant.

The utility patent is the most common: it protects unique inventions. Utility patents can be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matter, or any new useful improvement. 

Design patents many be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. 

Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents/discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plants. 

For more information about patents, please click here


Registered trademarks refer to trademarks that have been registered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and they are the only trademarks registered to use the 'r' symbol. 

State trademarks are trademarks that have been registered by a state, not the USPTO. 

Common law trademarks are trademarks that have not been registered by the USPTO, nor have they been registered in any state. It is not necessary to register a trademark. You can establish legal rights simply by using the trademark in commerce.

For more information about trademarks, please click here