Trademark, patent, or copyright

Trademarks, patents, and copyrights are different types of intellectual property. The USPTO grants patents and registers trademarks. The U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress registers copyrights.

 TrademarkPatentCopyright
What's legally protected?A word, phrase, design, or a combination that identifies your goods or services, distinguishes them from the goods or services of others, and indicates the source of your goods or services.Technical inventions, such as chemical compositions like pharmaceutical drugs, mechanical processes like complex machinery, or machine designs that are new, unique, and usable in some type of industry.Artistic, literary, or intellectually created works, such as novels, music, movies, software code, photographs, and paintings that are original and exist in a tangible medium, such as paper, canvas, film, or digital format.
What's an example?Coca-Cola® for soft drinksA new type of hybrid engineSong lyrics to “Let It Go”
from "Frozen"
What are the benefits
of federal protection?
Protects the trademark from being registered by others without permission and helps you prevent others from using a trademark that is similar to yours with related goods or services. Safeguards inventions and processes from other parties copying, making, using, or selling the invention without the inventor’s consent.Protects your exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and perform or display the created work, and prevents other people from copying or exploiting the creation without the copyright holder’s permission.

Trademark or brand

A brand is a marketing concept that encompasses how people feel about your product or service. Customers associate certain elements with different brands, such as reputation, image, and emotion. For example, a certain brand might have been developed to encourage you to feel confident, calm, or secure.

On the other hand, a federal trademark registration can provide nationwide legal protection for your brand in connection with particular goods or services. It is your choice whether to protect your brand under trademark law. Many business owners choose to protect their brand names for their main or dominant goods or services. You might also choose to protect a slogan or logo for those goods or services, if you have one.

Deciding what you want to protect and to what extent is up to you. You can have a brand, but decide not to protect that brand by registering it as a trademark. If you choose not to register your brand as a trademark, however, anyone could misuse your brand or create a brand so similar to yours that people can’t tell the difference between them. So, even if consumers want to purchase your products or services because they trust your brand’s reputation, that customer might purchase someone else’s by mistake because they can’t tell the difference between the trademarks.

DISCLAIMER: References to particular trademarks, service marks, certification marks, products, services, companies, or organizations appearing on this page are for illustrative and educational purposes only and do not constitute or imply endorsement by the U.S. government, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or any other federal agency.