FAQ - Comparison of Patents, Copyrights, Trade Secrets & Trademarks

I.   WHAT IS PROTECTED?
     A. PATENT:
Inventions: useful technological ideas relating to physical objects, and processes for making or using
               physical objects, including computer systems, computer software, web site features and functions, and methods of
               doing business.


     B. COPYRIGHT: Artistic or creative works, including software, musical performances, books, movies, scripts, sheet
               music, lyrics, manuals, and graphical user interfaces.


     C. TRADE SECRET: Anything which gives a competitive advantage and is kept secret.

     D. TRADEMARK: Words, phrases, logos, sounds and colors.


II. WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR PROTECTION?
     A. PATENT:

              1. The filing and allowance of an application for patent.

              2. The invention must have no exact predecessor, and must be more than an obvious improvement or combination
                  of the prior art.

              3. Enabling description -- requires public disclosure of the invention plus how to make and use it.

              4. Marking the invention with "patent pending" and, when issued, with the patent number.


     B. COPYRIGHT:
              1. Original authorship.

              2. Fixed in a tangible medium (performances are not protected).

              3. Registration before a lawsuit is filed (for U.S. origin works).

              4. May require at least partial public disclosure of the work in the Copyright Office.

              5. Adding copyright notice provides additional benefits.


     C. TRADE SECRET:
              1. Relative secrecy.

              2. Must give competitive advantage.

              3. Must use reasonable efforts to keep secret.


     D. TRADEMARK:
              1. Use - geographic, over time, on different goods and services.

              2. Additional benefits if registered.

              3. Provide notice by using TM, SM or (R in a circle).



III. WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF PROTECTION?
      A. PATENT:

              1. The right to prevent others from making, importing, using, selling or offering to sell a patented device, or from
                   practicing a patented method which embodies the invention.

              2. Protects against independent creation.


      B. COPYRIGHT:
              1. Protects against substantial copying of a work but not copying of ideas, concepts,
                  techniques, or algorithms.

              2. Does NOT protect against independent creation.

      C. TRADE SECRET:
              1. Protects against unauthorized use and/or disclosure of secret information as well as taking of secret ideas, concepts,
                  techniques, and algorithms.

              2. Does NOT protect against independent creation.

      D. TRADEMARK:
              1. Protects against marks of others which are likely to create confusion in the marketplace.

              2. Protects against disparagement.


IV. HOW LONG DOES THE PROTECTION LAST?
      A. PATENT:
20 years from the date of filing (historically, 17 years from date of issuance).

      B. COPYRIGHT:
              1. Individual: Life of author plus 70 years.

              2. Joint Work: Life of last survivor plus 70 years.

              3. Work made for hire: 95 years from date of publication, or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.


      C. TRADE SECRET: Indefinite as long as trade secret remains secret.

      D. TRADEMARK: Indefinite, so long as use is continuous.


 V.  WHAT IS THE INITIAL COST OF PROTECTION?
      A. PATENT:
Usually $8,000 to $18,000 to file, plus $3,000 to$12,000 over 2-3 years.

      B. COPYRIGHT: About $200-500, although preliminary work can drive up costs substantially.

      C. TRADEMARK: Nothing, but registration is typically $1,300-$3,000.

      D. TRADE SECRET: Depends on extent of internal and external procedures.

       These are typical ranges. Costs can be much, much higher depending on circumstances.

VI. HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO ENFORCE?
      A. PATENT:
$150,000 +

      B. COPYRIGHT: $50,000 +

      C. TRADE SECRET: $75,000 +

      D. TRADEMARK: $50,000 +

       Enforcement costs may vary dramatically from case to case; the above figures represent an estimate of the relative
       difficulties of enforcing rights in the four areas. The infringer's costs are also typically substantial.  Early settlement
       can have a substantial effect on costs.


VII. FORMS
     A. PATENT FORMS

Download an Invention Disclosure Report form. This form is useful for documenting inventions and asks for most of the information needed to do a prior art search and draft a patent application.



     B. TRADEMARK AND SERVICE MARK FORMS
If the mark is used on or with goods, download the Trademark Application Checklist. If the mark is used in promoting services, download the Service Mark Application Checklist.
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