You come up with an idea. You give it a name. It is your invention. You have created a work of art. You want to protect it from being stolen by others, but what is it? Is it a patent, copyright, service mark, or trademark? This is a question I get frequently and understandingly. It is confusing. The answer is it could be all 3 or perhaps only 1 of the 3.
A patent is an invention.
A copyright is an original piece of authorship.
A trademark is a word, name, symbol, or sound used in the sale of products.
A service mark is a word, name, symbol, or sound used in the sale of services.
Think big. An invention could be a new or improved process, a new or improved machine or way to manufacture something. It could be a new or improved design. Authorship could be a picture, drawing, song, manuscript, or how-to manual.
It is the YOU GOT MAIL voice from AOL. It is the design on Levi jean pockets.
How can one product be all 3? The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPT0) uses the example of a machine. For fun let’s say it is a music synthesizer. You invented a design improvement to the traditional synthesizer. You write the description of the synthesizer. You write music to play on the synthesizer. You call the synthesizer SynX generation. You draw a logo with a gold microphone with the word SynX on the handle of it.
The design improvement is a patent. The description of the synthesizer, logo, and music are copyrights. The logo and name SynX generation are trademarks. What do you do? Do you register as trademark, patent, and copyright? If you register the copyright to the synthesizer description, can you skip registering the patent? If consider the logo a copyright, can you skip registering it as a trademark? Think again. As the USPO noted in their example, a description of a machine [the synthesizer in our case] could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine.