What is the difference between Copyright ©, Trademark, ™ and Patents?
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Copyright © is usually invoked to protect published and printed versions of the expression of ideas. It is not the idea that can be protected by copyright but only its rendition. A standard explaining example is that two photographers standing side-by-side photographing the same sunset, can claim copyright to their pictures of the sunset, but not to the sunset itself.
Trademarks ™ apply to a symbol or any distinctive mark or logo or design, that is used by an owner of goods or provider of services, to distinguish the products and services from similar goods and services marketed or distributed by others. Thus, trademarks are essentially about the identity of certain symbols used in association with goods or services to distinguish them from others thereby using the forces of market differentiation to secure and exploit a competitive edge or to protect say a certain level and style of quality of the product or service.
A distinctive mark or symbol can be protected in two ways. As soon as the mark is used in association with a product or service, and assuming that this association is to be used in a branding manner, the owner of the product and the mark, could claim that the mark is a Trademark as opposed to just a symbol used in decoration. This is done by attaching the Trademark symbol ™ to the mark. This serves as a signal to others of the intention that the owner regards the mark as having a special, reserved role and significance. The habitual association of a Trademark with the marketing of goods and services further builds on the adage that 'possession is 90% of the law' inasmuch as uncontested use of a mark in open trade over a period when it could conceivably have been contested, strengthens the owner's case by praxis of use. A next step, beyond, and instead of only attaching the ™ symbol, would be for the owner to register the mark formally within a legal system of a particular country. If this is successful, then the ™ symbol is replaced by the 'Registered' symbol ®, usually coupled to a date. Formal registration is easier if the Trademark in question can be shown to have been used in public display, trade and/or service rendition for a considerable period without being challenged by another party. Consequently, the ™ symbol is often deemed sufficient protection by many enterprises, because the longer it is used without a challenge to less it becomes necessary to register it formally to protect it. Of course, formal registration is the strongest form of protection, but it is not essential to claim rights to a mark or symbol.
A patent is applied to a product, i.e. a particular, physical rendition, implementation or assembly of an invention as a unique product or process. The patent applies to the product and gives the owner a monopoly, for a specific period, to manufacture, sell and distribute the product. The basic idea is that people who spend years on thinking about an invention should have a period of monopoly during which they, and only they, can earn revenue from their inventions.
See also List of footnote clauses: Relevance of Copyright and Pitfalls of the Public Domain.