Decades Of Experience In Science, Business And Intellectual Property Law

What is the difference between patents and copyrights?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2023 | Patents

In the digital age, intellectual property has become more pervasive than ever. Protecting your creative work is essential, and two common methods to achieve this aim are patents and copyrights.

These legal mechanisms provide creators exclusive rights to their work but differ significantly in scope and purpose. Understanding the distinctions between patents and copyrights can help you understand when to use which one.

What is the primary distinction?

Patents grant creators exclusive rights to their inventions. This protection allows an inventor to control who can make, use and sell their invention for a specified period, typically 20 years. Patents are crucial in encouraging innovation, as they may incentivize inventors to invest time and resources in developing new ideas.

There are three main types of patents that inventors can pursue. The first is design patents, which protect the artistic nature of an item, focusing on its aesthetics rather than its functional aspects. Inventors can also get a utility patent to cover new and useful processes, machines and manufactured items. The last option is the plant patent, designed to protect new and distinct plant varieties that have been asexually reproduced.

Unlike patents, copyrights protect original works of authorship. These works can include literary, artistic and musical creations and software code. Copyrights award a creator exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform and display their work. And did you know that copyright protection lasts for the creator’s lifetime plus an additional 70 years?

How to choose between the two

Patents primarily apply to inventions, innovations and novel ideas while copyrights cover a broad range of creative works.

Choosing between patents and copyrights can be a little confusing, even when you’ve familiarized yourself with their distinctions. Thankfully, you don’t have to make this decision alone; you can consult a legal professional for helpful guidance at any time.