Patent vs. Trademark

Difference Between Patent And Trademark

Patent, an official document carrying with it a special set of rights granted by a government to a person who has invented new technology and has been willing to make the invention public. Each country has its own laws governing patents so that the rights and requirements connected with patents differ from country to country.

Typically, to get a patent one must have invented new technology. The inventor also must be willing and able to teach others how to make and use the new invention. This teaching is done by disclosing the invention to the government in a written document called a patent application. In turn—if a patent is granted—the government discloses the idea to the public by publishing the application. The new technical idea must be disclosed without excessive delay. In return for prompt disclosure, the inventor is granted the right to be the only person who can make, use, or sell the invented technology for a period of time. After the time has passed, the idea belongs to the public, and anyone can use and profit from it. Disclosure has been exchanged for exclusive ownership for a limited time.

A trademark is a word or symbol used to identify a product or service. It may be the name of a manufacturer, such as Ford or Campbell. It may be the made-up name of a product, such as Scrabble or Twinkies. It may be a picture or symbol, such as Tony the Tiger or the Energizer Bunny.

If there were no trademarks, you would have trouble finding the particular brands you wanted. The “no frills” products you see in supermarkets carry no trademarks. The labels carry only generic names that tell what the packages contain—”dog food” or “paper towels,” for example. You cannot tell who made these products. You cannot be sure they are of the same kind of quality as those you bought before. But when you buy a trademarked item that you have bought before, you know what to expect.

Generic names are ordinary words. If you look them up in the dictionary, you will find that they begin with lowercase (not capitalized) letters. Trademarks, if they appear in the dictionary at all, begin with uppercase (capital) letters. Patents and copyrights are expressly provided for in Constitution, and the federal government has exclusive control over both. But the law of trademarks is not provided for there, as such. Less often, it is based on foreign or territorial commerce. Hence, there are parallel federal and state registrations of trademarks.


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