Copyrights are used to cover things such as musical works, literary works, graphic works, pictorial works, sculptural works, computer programs and architectural programs. With copyright protection, the holder has the exclusive right to copy, modify, distribute, display and perform the work publicly.
Patents are used to protect inventions, methods and processes that are useful, non-obvious or novel. When granted, a patent gives the holder a monopoly for 20 years on using, selling, importing or making inventions in the United States. Because patent protection is fully public, it precludes any trade secret protection for the work.
Trademarks are used in three different ways and are like brand names. They include any symbols or words that represent, distinguish or identify a certain product from a similar one on the marketplace. Trademarks are issued when the work is distinctive, and are easier to enforce the more distinctive the work is. They last indefinitely if your company uses the mark to identify services or goods. Once the mark is not used any longer, registration is terminated. Trademarks are typically given in ten years terms by the federal government.
Some items cannot be protected under current forms of patent, copyright or trademark. They may give your business an advantage when it comes to the competition, but they are known as trade secrets. The preferable way to protect these is to keep them as private as possible.
This is intended for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.