Once an idea is converted into something valuable, like a product, design or an artistic creation, it turns into an intellectual property (IP). IP is a legal term that is used to signify all the things conceived by a person that are identified as being exclusive. The IP law gives specific rights to those who formulate the creation.
Intellectual property may be in the form of trademarks, patent, copyrights and trade secrets. In this article, we will discuss trademarks and patents because businessmen and startup founders often get confused between these two terms regarding their usage and protection provided. A trademark is a visual mark in the form of words, symbol, logo, labels, etc. that a company uses to distinguish its product from others in the market. In contrast, a patent is an exclusive right that is awarded by the government of any state to a person or company that invents something new, valuable and non-obvious, because of which other parties will not be able to create, use or sell a similar invention over a given time period. More detailed explanation of the two terms will be presented in the next section.
Definitions and meanings
Trademark is a term that refers to a visual sign or symbol used by a company, individual or any other legal entity that is representative of the origin of the products or services. It may include name, logo, label, design, signature, slogan, color combination, or a mix of these so as to differentiate their products/services from other identical products/services in the market.
In other words, a trademark is a distinctive symbol that is used for identifying specific products or services that have been developed under a particular brand name. It awards protection to the owner of the mark by offering them an exclusive right to use it or to authorize some other party to use it by paying a specified fee.
The trademark can be registered by any company or person with the relevant body so that they can obtain exclusive rights to use it for a specific number of years. Once the term of protection expires, it can be extended by paying a specific fee. A key benefit of trademark is that it prevents unfair competition from arising by blocking counterfeits from using an identical name or symbol to lure customers towards a lower quality product.
As soon as a company comes up with an innovative or new idea, it is highly likely that it may be copied by the competitors in the market. To ensure that this does not happen, it is essential for the company to register the idea so that it cannot be implemented or put forward before the owner launches it in the market. This is what patenting refers to.
Patent refers to the provision of exclusive rights to the person/company that develops a new and valuable invention. Patent is awarded by the government of the country in which the invention is made and extends for a specified time period. It may be awarded for a product or a process and its aim is to prevent others from creating, using or selling the patented idea.
Propriety rights are awarded to the inventor over the patented product/process, and it is only the patentee that is allowed to use the invention. Patents forbid unauthorized use of the product throughout the term of the patent. It is essential to get a patent registered if one wishes to obtain the advantages of protection. In addition, to obtain a patent, the invention should be unique, innovative, and industrially relevant.
Difference between trademark and patent
The main points of difference between trademark and patent are listed below:
Trademark refers to a mark, symbol, name, logo or phrase that is used to distinguish a product from other products available in the market. A patent, however, refers to the propriety rights granted by the government to the owner of an invention that involves an innovation. The owner has the sole authority to use this invention for a definite time period.
2. Applies to
Trademark is applicable to the name, sign, symbol, logos, slogans, images or designs used by a company for identifying their products. In contrast, patents are applicable on new ideas and inventions made in any field.
A trademark is granted to a product for its distinctiveness as it differentiates a product from another one in the market. On the other hand, patent is awarded to an innovative, useful and unique invention.
4. Protection provided
Trademark ensures that other products do not use marks that are very similar to theirs so as to confuse customers and decrease their sales. Patents, however, prevent others from stealing the idea or invention before the owner has started its production or introduced it in the market.
The company decides if it wants to gets its trademark registered, whereas it is mandatory to get a patent registered if one wishes to protect their invention.
Trademark secures the goodwill that is related to the slogan, symbol, name or logo of a product/service in the market. Patents, in contrast, safeguard the idea that has been created by a person or company and which will be transformed into an actual product or service.
Trademark vs patent – tabular comparison
A comparison of trademark and patent in tabular form is presented below:
|A mark/symbol used by a company to differentiate its products from other competing products
|Propriety rights awarded by the government to use/sell an invention for a given time period
|Name, symbol, sign, logo, slogan, design, colors, etc. of the brand
|New ideas and inventions
|Uniqueness of the product/service
|Innovative and unique inventions
|Prevents others from using similar marks
|Prevents others from using the patented invention
|Goodwill related to the mark
|Ideas that will be transformed into products
Conclusion – trademark vs patent
It is clear now that though trademarks and patents are both forms of intellectual property rights, they are different from one another. Different advantages are offered by them and companies should obtain both of them whenever possible. Trademarks offer owners of the mark with exclusive rights to use or sell the product, while patents offer propriety rights to the owners of inventions and ideas, because of which it becomes illegal for others to copy them for the term of the patent.