It’s not uncommon for us to get calls from prospective clients who want us to “patent their logo,” or otherwise incorrectly try to use intellectual property terms interchangeably. The terms “patent” and “trademark” both fall under the umbrella of intellectual property, and both are registered through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO); however, they are strikingly different and protect different aspects of a business.
With the exception of design patents, patents are used to protect new and non-obvious inventions. When you have a patent, you have the right to exclude others from manufacturing or selling your patent without your consent.
- Duration: Patents last for up to 20 years.
- Limits on Filing: You must file your patent application within 12 months from the time your invention was first sold or publicly used.
- Expected Time to Obtain: At least 18 months (but it could be years).
- Expected Cost to Obtain with a Lawyer: At least $20,000-$30,000 typically
Trademarks are things like the names, logos, slogans, product packaging, you put on your products to identify the source of your goods and distinguish them from the competition. When you think about trademarks, think of “branding.” When you have a registered trademark, you have the right to exclude others from entering the marketplace and using confusingly similar trademarks on products that are similar to yours. Unlike patents, a trademark cannot be the product itself; it’s the elements added to it for marketing purposes.
- Duration: Registered trademarks can last forever, assuming you’re still using them in commerce and pay your renewal fees to the USPTO.
- Limits on Filing: The earliest you can apply for a trademark is 6 months before you intend to use it in commerce.
- Expected Time to Obtain: At least 8 months (but it could take longer).
- Expected Cost to Obtain with a Lawyer: At least $850, but it could be more depending on the applicable filing fees.
Getting a Patent and a Trademark
It is possible for a company to have registered patents and trademarks for the same product. It’s not an either/or situation. The patent would apply to the new and non-obvious invention in the product (which could be the whole product) and the trademarks could be the company name, product name, logo, slogan, etc. used to market it.
If you’re still confused about the difference between patents and trademarks, the USPTO made a video explaining the difference:
Every company has intellectual property. We recommend that you talk with an intellectual property lawyer to help you identify what intellectual property you have and your options for protecting it.
If you need any help with your patents or other intellectual property, please send us a message. We have lawyers licensed in Arizona, Connecticut, and New York, and we can handle federal intellectual property matters in any U.S. state and assist with international matters. For even more information, be sure to connect with us on Facebook.
Post written and edited by social media attorney Ruth Carter.