Patents and Trademarks: The Process of Intellectual Property
If you are looking to register and protect your intellectual property, then it is important to understand the process of going about it. But before you jump into filling any applications, you have to first determine what category of intellectual property law your invention falls under. Trademarks and patents can be tricky things to confuse, since they both deal with unique inventions and processes. However, once you understand the difference, knowing which way to go becomes easier.
How is a patent different from a trademark?
A trademark protects the unique identity of your company and brand. It can be a logo, a phrase, a name, a specific type of color/font/design/part of a design, or any unique and innovative identifier that becomes your brand’s identity.
On the other hand, a patent is used to protect a specific invention that serves a function in terms of its process. This can include the materials used to invent it, but it certainly includes the blueprints of the invention and the process of inventing the product.
For instance, the name of a cellular phone would be protected by the trademark of the company that assembles, markets, and sells it. However, the technology within the phone would be patented by an inventor, or different groups of inventors, since each invention serves a specific purpose. The chip patent could belong to one entity, the screen to another, and the software to another. Patents usually apply to machines, software, pharmaceutical and biomedical formulae, etc.
How to file for a patent
The patent filing process is much longer and roundabout than the process of filing a trademark. An applicant can first file for a provisional patent application, which allows them time to finetune and improve their invention under the label of “Patent Pending.” From there, their official patent application is reviewed by examiners. This process includes publication of the patent.
Once published, the patent might be contested. In this case, the applicant has to then file responses, which the examiner reviews again. If the process goes smoothly, then the patent is granted. Sometimes these disputes can last a long time – but waiting is worth it, since a patent protects your invention thoroughly. It also ensures that nobody can commercialize or benefit from your hard work without your authorization.
How to file for a trademark
The process for filing a trademark is more straightforward. Once a trademark is created, an applicant must ensure that no prior trademarks have been registered under the same name, phrase, or design. Under USPTO law, the right of way is given to the person who first utilizes a trademarked creation, not the one who is first granted registration. Since the dispute can hold up the process, it is important to register your trademark as soon as you create it.
Similar to a patent, the trademark application is examined by attorneys and then published in the weekly USPTO trademark gazette. Here, it allows people to contest the trademark registration, similar to a patent application. If the contesting process goes without any issue, then the trademark is registered.
Both patents and trademarks hold equal value in the commercial production of a specific product. They both go hand in hand to protect an entire invention, and for any company intending to commercially benefit from their inventions, it is important for them to both trademark and patent everything involved in the process of production.
Ultimately, this can make the key difference between watching your hard work be wrongfully utilized, or your brand name being smeared or misused by an entity that is unrelated to your company.
Whether you need to file a patent or a trademark, intellectual property law is a field that comes with a lot of technicalities that inventors and creators are not often aware of. Instead of wrongfully filing for something (and losing) or being granted a right that does not fully protect you, it is better to get legal help right from the start.
Legal teams, like that at MDE Patents, have tons of experience in helping people file their applications, fighting any contesting, and then ensuring that all infringements are dealt with properly.
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