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Trademark vs Patent

When you first hear about a patent and a trademark, it might be hard to distinguish between them. They sound so similar that most people easily confuse them. But if you have a unique product or creative work you want to protect and stop someone from using it without your permission, then it might be best to understand these terms in depth.

Luckily, we’ve made the job easier for you and answered some burning questions concerning the two intellectual property rights: Which one should you apply for if you start a UK business? How do they differ? Is it a must to apply for them?

Read on to find out.

What is Intellectual Property?

Patents and trademarks are among the many intellectual property rights, including copyright and trade dress. Essentially, the term intellectual property rights is a broad phrase that encompasses the different legal rights.

For the most part, IP safeguards businesses, creators, and artists’ work from being copied or reproduced without their consent. However, IP is not just limited to these groups. Anyone can still use it to protect their property or work.

A business can use Intellectual property rights for almost any one-of-a-kind creative creation, such as:

  • Manufactured products
  • Software
  • Branding and logos
  • Goods and services
  • Artistic creations
  • Photographs and videos
  • Writing (short stories, books, and essays)
  • Signs and slogans for businesses

Furthermore, there are IP safeguards for online creative work. For example, the copyright Designs and Patents Act (1988) governs how digital media is controlled, used, and shared.

Given the many types of intellectual property rights, you need to choose the proper protection for your business, piece of work, or product. But before we get into that, let’s see why IP is important.

Why Does Intellectual Property Matter?

To foster innovation, we must protect our Intellectual property from illegal use and copying without permission. Protecting intellectual property will ensure innovators get the most benefits from their inventions by being fully compensated.

In this regard, it’s advisable to protect your business assets if you’ve recently launched a brand-new company, rebranded, or are about to launch a new product. This could be your logo, brand name, or any other invention. You can do this through intellectual property (IP) protections like patents and trademarks.

In the case of your brand, idea, or product, choosing the right type of protection is crucial. This will help prevent other people from using or stealing your brand. It also safeguards your brand reputation and enables you to pursue legal action if your IP is used without permission.

What is a Trademark?

Trademarks are visual symbols that identify a particular product or service. These features distinguish your goods or services from other similar products or services. They may include;

  • Slogans
  • Numerals
  • Names
  • Labels
  • Logos
  • Signatures

Trademarks can be used as follows:

  • Providers of services or products
  • Features of services or products
  • The service or product itself

A trademark protects the owner of the mark and grants them exclusive rights to use the mark in the future. The owner has exclusive rights to use the mark or allow other parties to utilize it for a fee. Typically, trademarks have a protection span of ten years from the application date, after which you have to renew them.

What Qualifies as a Legitimate Trademark?

Trademarks apply to everything directly related to your brand. Among the things you can trademark include; packaging, unique colours, certain sounds, product shape, and logo, to name a few.

Before registering a trademark, you must check to ensure no one has already trademarked it. The first party to trademark something has exclusive rights over it.

Trademark Registration: How it’s Done

Registering a trademark requires filing a registration through the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). You’ll need to provide details of your trade mark and pay an initial fee of about £270.

You can make your application via email or post and wait for the IPO to examine your application to ensure your trade mark is not similar to an existing trademark. The whole process should take about 4 months to trademark your goods or services.

Once registered, you can have the official ® symbol displayed on your branding. The symbol legally protects your brand from anyone who might attempt to steal or copy your trademark.

What the IPO Will Do:

  • Make sure your trademark is not confusingly similar to an already registered one.
  • Put your application in writing, and let the world know about it in the diary in case any naysayers pop up.
  • The IPO will notify you if there are any problems. Before filing for trademark registration, you must address these issues.

You can expect your trademark to be approved within three to four months of filing, assuming there are no complications.

What is a Patent?

A patent is a federal government-granted privilege allowing an inventor to prevent others from using, selling, or recreating an invention for a set time. Unlike trademarks that protect branding, patents are meant to safeguard procedures or products, particularly new unique inventions.

Other things you can patent include;

  • Literary works
  • Biogenetic processes
  • Machines
  • Methods or steps of presenting something
  • Diagnoses

The patent system was established to foster valuable and unique inventions for society. The Constitution initially granted the ability to grant patents to Congress, and federal statutes and rules govern patents.

Inventions are typically made to solve technological challenges and might take the form of a procedure or a product. Patents, like other property rights, can be:

  • Given away
  • Transferred
  • Assigned
  • Mortgaged
  • Licensed
  • Sold
  • Abandoned

Patents can be enforced by taking legal action against anyone who infringes upon them. In the UK, patents can last up to 20 years.

Obtaining a Patent: How to Do It

You should get your paperwork, including supporting materials such as supporting documents, in order before applying for a patent. When submitting your first application, make sure also to include any illustrations you’d like to add to your description

While you can always send in your claims and abstract separately, it’s best to provide everything at once to reduce the likelihood of missteps (for example, your claims not matching your description).

You can pay the filing fee at the time of the initial application submission or a later date, but payment is required before the application can move further. The initial fee is about £4,000.

When submitting your initial application, be sure to request and pay for a search. This can help speed up the procedure considerably. You might also want to hire a qualified patent attorney or advisor to help you with your patent application

Patent applications can take up to 5 years to get approved.

What Is the Difference Between a Trademark and a Patent?

When comparing patents and trademarks, the main distinction is that:

  • Patents protect your invention
  • Trademarks protect your brand

There are further distinctions, some of which are listed below:

1.     The Sign-Up Procedure

For trademarks, you must submit an application to the competent IP describing the trade mark and the goods and services for which the trade mark will be used.

In the case of patents, an application must be accompanied by a patent specification that includes a detailed description of the following:

  • The invention and
  • The drawings

In both cases, IPs conduct an inspection to evaluate whether the trademark or patent application meets numerous legal standards.

2.     Rights When Unregistered

A trade mark can exist without being registered. Common law trademarks, as they are known, offer only limited protection when nearly similar trademarks are used in connection with matched goods or services. However, registering your trademark is always a good idea because these rights are not always legally enforceable until properly registered.

On the other hand, patent protection cannot be granted to inventions that have already been made public or have been utilized or sold. The risk of losing your rights to an unpatented invention necessitates registration.

3.     Protection Duration

A registered trademark has a ten-year lifespan. If you renew your registration within these 10-year periods, you can keep your trademark eternally.

For patents, the period of protection varies based on the type of patent registered. Standard patents have a term of 20 years, while innovation patents have eight years. Pharmaceutical patents can run up to 25 years in some cases.

Bottom Line

In a nutshell, a trademark protects the owner of the mark by granting them exclusive right to use it or allowing another person with the right to use it in exchange for money.

The patent, on the other hand, is a legal document granted to the owner of the invention by statute that allows him to prohibit anyone from commercially exploiting the invention for a specified amount of time.



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