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Understanding the Key Differences: Patent vs Copyright

Mon Sep 4, 2023 Intellectual Property

In the world of intellectual property, two terms that often come up are patent and copyright. While both are forms of legal protection for creative works, they serve different purposes and offer different types of protection. Understanding the key differences between patents and copyrights is crucial for creators, inventors, and businesses alike.

In this blog post, we will look at the differences between patents and copyrights and how they can protect intellectual property.

Patent vs Copyright

Utility Patents vs Copyrights

Utility Patents

  • Type of Work Covered: Utility patents protect new and useful inventions or discoveries. These can include processes, machines, articles of manufacture, or compositions of matter, as well as improvements to any of these.
  • What is Protected: The functional aspects of the invention are protected. A utility patent gives someone the exclusive right to use and sell an invention for a short period of time.
  • Duration: In the United States, a utility patent usually lasts for 20 years starting from the date the application is filed, as long as the required fees are paid.
  • Requirements for Protection: The invention must be new, non-obvious, and useful. To obtain a utility patent, an inventor must submit a patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which will be reviewed for its merits.
  • Scope: Patents provide rights within the jurisdiction in which they were granted.
  • Example: If you invent a new type of engine, you could seek a utility patent to protect your invention.


  • Type of Work Covered: Copyrights protect original works of authorship, such as writings, music, and art.
  • What is Protected: Copyright protects the way ideas are expressed rather than the ideas themselves. The copyright holder has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or license the work, and to produce or license derivative works based on it.
  • Duration: For works created by an individual, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. For works created by a corporation, the duration is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.
  • Requirements for Protection: Originality and a minimum level of creativity are required. Copyright protection happens automatically when you create something original. While you don’t have to register with the U.S. Copyright Office, doing so can give you certain advantages.
  • Scope: Copyright is jurisdictional like patents but international treaties like the Berne Convention offer some level of international protection.
  • Example: If you write a novel, the text would be automatically copyrighted.

Design Patent vs Copyright

Design Patents

  • Type of Work Covered: Design patents protect new, original, and ornamental designs for articles of manufacture. In simpler terms, they protect the way a product looks.
  • What is Protected: The visual ornamental characteristics embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture are protected. This might include the shape/configuration or surface ornamentation of the product.
  • Duration: In the United States, design patents last for 15 years from the date the patent is granted.
  • Requirements for Protection: The design must be new and non-obvious. To obtain a design patent, you must submit an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), where it will undergo examination.
  • Scope: Like other types of patents, design patents are jurisdictional and provide rights only within the jurisdiction where they were granted—in this case, the United States.
  • Example: If you design a new and unique chair shape, you could seek a design patent for that shape.


Definition and Purpose

A patent is a form of legal protection granted to inventors for their inventions. It provides exclusive rights to the inventor, preventing others from making, using, or selling the invention without permission. The purpose of a patent is to encourage innovation by granting inventors a limited monopoly over their invention.

The purpose of a patent is to encourage innovation by granting inventors a limited monopoly over their invention. This exclusive right prevents others from making, using, or selling the invention without the inventor’s permission. By providing inventors with legal protection, patents incentivize them to continue developing new and innovative ideas, as they have the assurance that their hard work will be rewarded and protected.

Types of Patents

Utility Patents:

Utility patents are commonly seen and cover a wide variety of inventions. They include new and useful processes, machines, substances, and improvements to them.

Patents can vary greatly in complexity, spanning from astounding technological advancements like the U.S. Navy’s highly intricate craft engineered with an inertial mass reduction device, to simpler yet innovative creations such as a humble clothes hanger.

Craft using an inertial mass reduction device

US Patent No.: 10,144,532

See: Benefits Of Utility Patents For Amazon Sellers

  • Design Patents: Design patents are a form of intellectual property that provides protection for the unique and distinctive ornamental design or appearance of an object. This means that design patents aim to safeguard the visual aspects of a product, rather than its functional aspects.

See: Benefits of Design Patents for Amazon Sellers

  • Plant Patents: Plant patents are granted for the recognition and protection of novel and distinct plant varieties that have been exclusively propagated through methods of asexual reproduction. These patented plant varieties possess unique genetic traits and characteristics that distinguish them from existing varieties cultivated.

Requirements for Obtaining a Patent

To get a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), three things are needed: 1) The invention must be brand new and not known before; 2) It should not be an obvious improvement on current technology; 3) The invention must be useful and able to be created or used.

Novelty is a crucial requirement for an invention to be considered patentable. This means that the invention needs to be unique and different from anything else previously known or shared with the public.

Non-obviousness is another essential criterion that determines whether an invention is eligible for patent protection. It mandates that the invention must not be an obvious or trivial improvement over existing technology. An invention must not only be different, but it also needs to have a unique and non-obvious element that sets it apart from existing knowledge.

Furthermore, an invention must not only be novel and non-obvious but must also serve a useful purpose. This utility requirement states that the invention should have a practical application and be capable of being manufactured or used. It should offer some form of tangible benefit or solution to a technical problem and demonstrate its ability to be put into practice. Thus, an invention that lacks utility or does not have any discernible usefulness cannot satisfy this essential criterion for patentability.

See: Design Patents vs. Utility Patents: What Are The Differences?


Definition and Purpose

Copyright is a form of legal protection granted to authors, artists, and creators for their original works of authorship. It provides exclusive rights to the creator, allowing them to control the reproduction, distribution, and public display of their work. The purpose of copyright is to incentivize creativity and protect the rights of creators.

Types of Works Protected by Copyright

  • Literary works: Books, articles, poems, and other written works.
  • Visual arts: Paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other visual creations.
  • Music: Songs, compositions, and musical recordings.
  • Dramatic works: Plays, scripts, and screenplays.
  • Films and audiovisual works: Movies, documentaries, and videos.
  • Architectural works: Building designs and blueprints.

Rights Granted by Copyright

  • Reproduction: The right to make copies of the work.
  • Distribution: The right to distribute copies of the work to the public.
  • Public display: The right to display the work publicly.
  • Derivative works: The right to create new works based on the original.


In conclusion, patents and copyrights are two distinct forms of legal protection that serve different purposes. Inventors receive patents to safeguard their inventions and foster innovation. Creators, on the other hand, receive copyrights to safeguard their original works. Understanding the key differences between copyright vs patent is essential for anyone involved in the creation or use of intellectual property. By determining the right kind of protection for a piece of work or an invention, people and companies can make sure that their intellectual property is safe and their rights are defended.

If you are looking for professional assistance in registering copyrights or patents, you can reach out to ESQgoⓇ, an Amazon Seller Attorney, for guidance and support. We offer a free initial consultation and can be reached by calling 866-203-0541 or through their contact page. We have expertise in intellectual property law and can provide the necessary assistance for safeguarding your creative works or inventions.