top of page

What’s the difference between a copyright, trademark and a patent?

A copyright protects original works of authorship, a patent protects inventions or discoveries and trademarks protect words, symbols, phrases or designs used in connection with particular goods or services.



Do patent registrations expire? 

Yes.  Patents must be maintained to remain in good standing and avoid abandonment.  If properly maintained, utility patents filed on or after June 8, 1995 are granted for 20 years from the date of application.  Design patents last for 14 years from the date granted.


 Are patents renewable?   No.


What happens if I think someone else is using my invention without my permission? 

Gather as much information as possible regarding the unauthorized use to ensure the inventions are truly similar and to facilitate a comparison of the claims of the patent with the accused product.  If you would like our assistance pursuing the matter, please contact us for a free consultation at    


How long is the process to obtain a patent in the U.S.?

It varies heavily depending on USPTO backlog and whether or not the examination is entitled to accelerated examination.  Accelerations are available in limited circumstances including formal petition, congressional mandate or age-related qualifications.  Without acceleration, typically the process of securing a patent will take between 2-4 years.


When can I use the term “Patent Pending” with my invention?

Only after either a provisional or nonprovisional patent application is filed with the USPTO can the inventor apply the “patent pending” terms to the invention.


Can there be more than one inventor on a patent application? 

Yes, as long as the individuals identified as inventors actually contributed to the ideas that led to creation of the invention.  Building the design of another inventor does not qualify as an inventor.

Frequently Asked Questions



Do I really need to register my work with the U.S. Copyright Office for copyright protection?

An original work receives copyright protection as soon as it is in a fixed, tangible medium so you do have some copyrights without registering with the U.S Copyright office.  The benefit of registration is in the legal process and recovery available to protect your work from infringement or unauthorized use by another.  Federal registration of the work is required to file a federal claim for copyright infringment.


Recovery for federal copyright infringements may include attorney's fees, statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringment or the damages you sustain including the infringer's profits.  These options are not available for un-registered works.


How long does copyright protection last?

Copyright registration is not indefinite.  For works created after January 1, 1978, protection lasts for the lifetime of the author plus an additional 70 years.  For a work made for hire, a copyright lasts for 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first.


What is the proper notation to indicate the copyright of a work?

Although not required, a notation may be added to the author’s original work to indicate the owner of the copyrights.  The notation should include:

            (1) the symbol © (the encircled letter C), or the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”;

            (2) the year of the first publication; and

            (3) the name of the copyright owner.  To secure additional rights abroad, you should also include the phrase “All Rights Reserved.” 

For example:             © 2015 by [Full Company Name]

                                    All Rights Reserved.


Are copyrights renewable? 

No, not for works created after January 1, 1978.


How long does it take to register a work in the U.S.?

Currently, the copyright office is averaging about 9 -12 months.



What do the symbols ™, SM, or ® mean?

Trademarks can be identified with the symbols: ™, SM, or ®.  Owners may use the ™ symbol for goods or services when referring to a non-registered trademark or one that has been applied for and is awaiting registration.  The SM symbol may be used for non-registered service marks or those awaiting complete registration.  Technically, a service mark identifies a service while a trademark identifies goods.  However, in common parlance, the word “trademark” denotes a mark that identifies either goods or services, or both.  The registered symbol, an encircled R ®, may only be used on those trademarks or service marks federally registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  


What is a service mark?

Service marks are trademarks used to identify services instead of the owner’s goods.


What happens if I find someone else using my trademark? 

If another uses your registered trademark without your consent, you could bring formal legal action or a law suit against the other party for infringement of your rights.  One critical point concerning infringement is that the other party must be using a similar trademark with the same or similar goods or services as yours.  If you would like our assistance enforcing your rights against infringement please contact us at


Do I have to be a United States citizen to file a trademark?

No, however, your country of origin must be specified on the trademark application if you are filing as an individual.


How long does it take to register a trademark?

Federal registration averages 9-12 months depending on the issues raised during examination and opposition.  It is possible for this timeframe to extend significantly if the trademark is opposed or there are conflicting trademarks discovered during examination. 


How long does the U.S. trademark application take?

Approximately 15 minutes to complete our simple, on-line application.


Do I really need a search before I register a trademark?

A search will help identify potential obstacles that may prevent or delay trademark registration.  Internet searches on Google® or Yahoo® for keywords will not identify trademark registrations unless the owners maintain an internet presence.  In many cases, they do not.  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office offers search capability of federal trademarks on their website  Searching the USPTO is the minimum a trademark owner should do before investing time and resources registering a trademark.  We generally recommend a more comprehensive search as a prudent first step.


What does “Use in Commerce” mean?

Use in commerce refers to “the bona fide use of a mark in the ordinary course of trade, and not made merely to reserve a right in a mark.”  USPTO TMEP §901.02.   In other words, the trademark owner cannot practice use of the mark solely to meet the requirements of federal trademark registrations, also known as “token use” and must actually be distributing goods or services under the trademark.  Proof of use must be submitted to the U.S. Trademark Office before registration is granted.


What is an acceptable specimen to file with a trademark application or renewal?

For goods, suitable specimens include user manuals, point of sale displays, e-commerce stores, labels, tags or product packaging which clearly show the applied for trademark.  For services, website screenshots, brochures, or advertisements are acceptable.  We will assist with the specimen selection and submission during the application process.

bottom of page