I.P. 101: The Difference Between Trademarks, Service Marks, Copyrights, and Patents

If you’re in the business of creating, whether it’s a product, a song, a novel, or a nobel-prize winning invention, you need to know how to protect your Intellectual Property. Intellectual Property (I.P.) is all around us and while this knowledge doesn’t substitute for official legal advice, it’s important to know which type of intellectual property your work falls under in navigating these increasingly crowded waters.

Trademarks ®|™ & Service Marks SM
A trademark is a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product. Alternately, a service mark (or servicemark) is a word, phrase, symbol or logo that is used to brand, identify, and distinguish a particular service from one business to another. Within these two, we also have a variety of sub-categories.

Word Marks are the most common types of trademarks which, as their name suggests, contain text-only. These can be a range of things such as a product, company, or institution. Think Target® and Coca-Cola®.

Logos are the visual symbols of a trademark world, e.g.,
Slogans are distinguished phrases or mottos such as Expect More.® Pay Less.® and Open Happiness.®

cocacolaEven specific pantone colors like the famous Coca-Cola red you see here, shapes such as the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle or the four-finger KitKat bar, and sounds like the world-known MGM lion roar can be trademarked.

Finally, we have trade dress. Trade dress is a legal term referring to specific characteristics of the visual appearance for a product that signify it to consumers (this can include packaging or even the shape of a building). For example, think about the Johnson and Johnson “no more tears” baby shampoo. The recognizable appearance of this “tear shaped bottle” is protected as a trade dress.

With over 3 million trademarks in the U.S. alone, it’s important to protect what distinguishing you and your brand.

On the other side of the I.P. Spectrum, we have patents. This type of intellectual property concerns the right or title of an invention for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude any other party from making, using, or selling an invention. This can apply to any invention like the phone in your pocket (or the phone you may be reading this on) including the individual parts inside that technology that make it all work together.

Lastly, we have copyrights which are the exclusive legal rights of the originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same. This refers to books, songs, or any other artistic creation.

As you can see, we are surrounded at all points in time by intellectual property. Whether you own a business, or design buildings it’s important to know your rights and protect your creations. For more information, visit the World Intellectual Property Information site @https://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/, or contact Brandsymbol directly: 2925 Senna Drive, Suite 207 Matthews, NC 28105|704.625.0106|info@brandsymbol.com.