Do I need a patent, a trademark or a copyright?

Patents, Copyrights and trademarks are three different types of intellectual property. Traders are often confused as to which type of the three types of  intellectual property they need to protect their works.

Intellectual property is property other than real property which is created by an author, inventor or an owner. They have the rights to enforce trademark, copyright and patent rights against their intangible property. Intangible property is not physical in nature but represents something in value.  (Note intellectual property comes in additional forms also such as trade secrets).


If you create a copyright you are known as an author of your works. The types of works a copyright protects are:

Literary – books, poetry

Artistic – paintings, drawings, photograph

Musical – songs, lyrics

Software – software code

To protect your work it has to be in a tangible form of expression such as a DVD, CD, paper etc.


If you own a trademark you are known as the owner of your trademark. A trademark protects the identity associated with your product/brand name and the goods or services associated with it.

A trademark can identify your product name in the following ways: Slogan, logo, symbols, combination of a logo and a slogan, phrase, sign etc. This will distinguish your trademark from other trademark owners and prevent them from using the same or similar trademark which could harm your business.


If you created an invention you are an inventor of your patent. A patent is a protection of an invention which will prevent another from using, making and selling your invention.

Examples of patents are: microwave, light bulb, vacuum cleaner, computer mouse, software etc. Whether an invention is patentable can be shown by diagrams, flow charts, block diagrams which will illustrate the elements of your invention.

In summary, if you are looking to protect your invention you are looking for a patent; if you are looking to protect your brand name you are looking to register a trademark; if you have expressive works in a tangible form you are looking at a copyright.


Related Posts