What are the Differences Between Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks?

Black Business Woman writing in paper at desk with pen

Question: What are the Differences Between Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks?

It is important for women entrepreneurs to know, and protect their rights to their materials, inventions, and products and services. If you are not sure what protection you might need, talk with an attorney.

Answer: There are three basic ways to protect yourself from someone stealing inventions and intellectual property that belong to you or your business: copyrights, patents, and trademarks.

These protections are not interchangeable, and each one covers a different kind of property. But businesses often use a combination of copyrights, patents, and trademarks to ensure their rights are fully protected.


A copyright protects certain “forms of expression.” This includes works of art and written materials. It does not include a subject or topic, only what you "express" about something. You can formally register a copyright, but you may also have automatic protection of your rights even without registering something you created.


A patent protects your rights to an invention. Patenting is a legal process that is done by submitting a formal patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Fees vary depending upon what you are trying to patent.​


Trademarks are used to identify logos, designs, jingles, slogans, and a word or series of words, or other unique and specific things that represent or relate to your company, a product, or service. A trademark must be registered with the Patent and Trademark Office (in the United States) and costs about several hundred dollars.