A trademark is a word, name, symbol, logo or device which is used to distinguish the goods / services of one company from its competitors. Just about every company is using a trademark of some sort. You want make sure your trademark can be registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, so that you can start building goodwill in your brand from the very first day. And best of all, you can apply now, and don't have to wait until you start making sales. The strongest marks are those that are arbitrary, and not descriptive of the goods / services you provide. You can search existing trademarks, and apply online at www.uspto.gov/trademarks/index.jsp.
A patent protects any new and useful article, machine, composition, use or process. It covers unique functions or features of a product, and allows you to exclude others from making, using or selling the patented invention. Any improvement you make to your product can potentially be patented. But be careful; you want to file a patent application before you publicly disclose your invention (or at the latest, within 1-year of any public disclosure). And, an invention can be "publicly disclosed" even when you use a non-disclosure agreement. You can search existing patents and published patent applications at http://patft.uspto.gov/.
A copyright protects literary, dramatic, musical, artistic or software. Unlike a patent, which covers the underlying idea of a product, a copyright only covers that particular expression of the idea. For instance, a patent may protect the operation of a machine, whereas a copyright only protects the exact software code which is used to operate the machine or the user manual which explains how the machine operates. For more information about copyrights, see www.copyright.gov/.
Please note that this Web Site does not to provide specific legal advice, but is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney. If you have any questions about trademarks, patents, or copyrights, you can contact Peter Weissman, Esq., Blank Rome LLP, at
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