What's the difference between ©, TM and patent?

Ever wondered what the difference is between ©, TM and patent? Copyright, trademarks and patents are all types of intellectual property and the difference between them is what kind of intellectual property each one protects.

Copyright © protects new and original works, in a fixed and tangible form, by an identifiable creator/author, in the literary, dramatic, artistic and musical spheres of creativity.

Ownership of © gives you exclusive rights, for a limited time, to use that work in a variety of ways; to duplicate, distribute, display and create derivative works. It exists automatically, and nothing needs to be done for it to apply, but depending on the medium, and where possible, registering for copyright is advisable. © lasts for the life of the creator, and a number of years after death; most commonly, 50 years. It can be sold, transferred and inherited.

Trademarks are elements such as a phrase, a word, a design, or an image that identifies your company and its goods or services; it is a distinguishing element that protects your brand. A trademark distinguishes your company from competitors, and prevents others from using that mark. Trademarks have to be filed and registered with IPONZ to be valid. Registered TMs last 10 years and can be renewed.

A patent is a property right that applies to a new, unique, useful invention, process or discovery. Patents must be filed and registered, and include details such as drawings, claims and detailed descriptions, and identify the owner and inventor. A granted patent lasts for 20 years and must be renewed to keep it active. Patents protect your invention from being made, used or sold by others.

Some works can be protected by more than one of these property rights; for example, a Nike shoe is TM with the jumpman logo, the science behind pumping air into the shoe is protected by a patent, and the color and design of the shoe falls under copyright.

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Written by Karen Workman, Kaiwhakahaere Whakapa | Creative Rights Educator

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