Copyright vs. Patent

What is the difference between copyright and patent? Copyright and patent are two terms used to ensure that…

What is the difference between copyright and patent?

Copyright and patent are two terms used to ensure that the legal rights of authors and inventors are protected and that their work cannot be stolen or copied by anyone else. It also ensures that no one can use the material without their permission or claim to be the original author or inventor. However, they refer to different types of legal procedures, which is why it is important to understand the differences between them.

What is copyright?

Copyright is the legal protection for both fiction and non-fiction printed material.  Any type of creative work of which the creator is considered an author comes under the category of copyright – music, literary, pictures, graphics or artistic talent. Under the terms of the 1976 Copyright Law, only the author has the authority to reproduce the original work and it has to be the author whose name is on the copyright. This person is the only one who has the right to publish the work. Some people think that copyright refers only to anything that has been written, but its only limits are that it is a form of expression.

What is patent?

Patent is the legal protection for inventions, processes and devices and protects them from being copied. A person who invents something deemed useful for people can obtain a patent for it from the patent and trademark office of the country in which he/she lives.  A patent prevents others from copying, selling, reproducing or advertising a product as being their own when they did not invent it.

There are three types of patents:

  • Utility patents – given to those who invent or discover a new product that can be useful to people. It can also be given for an improvement to a previously used device.
  • Design patents – given for inventions of ornamental design
  • Plant patents – given to those who invent a new type or a new variety of plant

Differences and similarities between copyright and patent

The following are the major points of copyright and patent:

  1. Copyrights are based on the arts and patents are based on science.
  2. Copyright is the term used for authorship of a literary, musical, dramatic or artistic work. Patent is the term for new and useful inventions.
  3. Authorship must be unique and original to be copyrighted. It begins as soon as the work is created. An invention does not have patent protection until the actual patent is issued.
  4. Copyright lasts for life or from 50 to 70 years depending on the country of the author. Patent protection usually lasts for 10 to 20 years, but this also depends on the country of the inventor.
  5. Copyright is free and does not involve a lot of paperwork. The application for patent is a very long and difficult process because the invention has to be thoroughly checked.


Both copyright and patent mean that the work or invention is the exclusive property of the author or inventor. No one else is permitted to sell, reproduce or advertise the product as their own. However, the processes of obtaining each one are different.


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