Difference between Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents

13 March 2023

Intellectual property (IP) is an important topic for businesses and individuals globally today. Even in India, there is now more awareness about IP and in this competitive era, everyone wants to protect their IP from misuse and infringement. It is critical for everyone to first understand the various forms of IP, including copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Knowing the difference between patent and copyright, or trademark vs. copyright, is crucial for taking actions for safeguarding one's intellectual property rights.

A copyright grants the exclusive right to reproduce, license, distribute, publicly display, and perform original works which include literary, artistic, dramatic, musical, cinematographic and computer application and software works. A trademark is defined as “a mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others and may include the shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours” by the Trade Marks Act, 1999. On the other hand, a patent grants the inventor a monopoly on the creation, manufacturing and distribution of their invention..

Points Of Difference Between Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents:

Point of Difference Copyrights Trademarks Patents
Governing Act The Copyrights Act, 1957 The Trade Marks Act, 1999 The Patents Act, 1970
Scope of Protection Protection of original creative expressions like literary works, artistic works, dramatic works, etc. Protection of unique name / symbol/ design that makes a brand distinct from other. Can include name, word combinations, slogans, logo, shape, colour etc. Protection of inventions that are novel, original and has industrial utility.
Validity Valid for life time of the author + 60 years after his/her death. After registration, initial validity for 10 years which can be extended perpetually by renewing the trademark every 10 years. Trademark registrations applied for in a country will grant territorial protection in that country alone, however, one can apply for international protection as well. Once registered, the validity will be for 20 years starting from the day the application is first made. It is also a territorial right and therefore it is effective only within the territory of India. Separate patents required to be filed for each country where protection is required.
Exclusive Right comes into Existence Copyright is an inherent right and Exclusive rights over the copyright are created the moment the author creates the work. Upon registration - Once the trademark is registered, the applicant of the mark can claim complete right over the said mark during the validity period of registration. Registration usually takes 12-18 months. Upon Registration - Patent registration takes about 2-3 years in all. But the owner can stop anyone else from claiming right over a particular patent the moment he applies for provisional patent.

Examples for Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents

Below are a few examples to understand the differences between trademark, patent, and copyright a. Wheel was one of the earliest inventions of mankind, which could have been patent. Development of a machine or a system that could facilitate any action or process, can be patented.

  1. Plays and dramas written by Shakespeare are his copyright works. Similarly, a code written by a software developer grants him the copyright over that code.
  2. The Nike swoosh, the U of Unilever with intricate design, the small blue bird of Twitter and the golden arches of ‘M’ of McDonald’s are a few examples of trademarks.  

In conclusion, all intellectual property rights should be safeguarded and protected to encourage new and innovative ideas. In India, IP laws are in place to provide various forms of protection and benefits to startups. By understanding the difference between trademark, copyright, and patent, businesses and individuals can ensure that their IP remains protected.

FAQs about the difference between copyright, patent and trademark

Q1: Which is better: copyright or patent?

A: It depends on what one wants to protect Copyright law grants the owner of a creative work exclusive rights to control the publication, reproduction, distribution, and performance of the artistic, literary, dramatic etc. work. In contrast, patent law grants the inventor of a novel and non-obvious invention the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a limited time. In other words, copyright protects creative works like literary, artistic, and musical compositions, while patent law protects useful inventions. So, since a copyright and patent protection are available for different types of IP, it is subjective to their applicability to one's needs and the type of work they want to protect.


Q2: Is it more difficult to get a copyright registration than a patent?

A: No, it is generally easier to obtain a copyright registration than a patent registration. In most countries, the process of registering a copyright is less complicated and less time-consuming than obtaining a patent. Furthermore, copyright law protects a more extensive range of works than patent law does, primarily creative works like books, music, and art. In contrast, patent law protects specific inventions that meet specific requirements, such as novelty and non-obviousness. So, the process and difficulty level of obtaining a copyright versus a patent may differ depending on the type of work one is trying to protect.


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Disclaimer - The content of this document is for information purpose only and does not constitute advice or a legal opinion. It is based upon relevant law and/or facts available at that point of time and prepared with due accuracy & reliability. Readers are requested to check and refer to relevant provisions of statute, latest judicial pronouncements, circulars, clarifications etc. before acting on the basis of this write up. The possibility of other views on the subject matter cannot be ruled out. By the use of the said information, you agree that the Treelife is not responsible or liable in any manner for the authenticity, accuracy, completeness, errors or any kind of omissions in this piece of information for any action taken thereof.

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- Senior Associate | Legal

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