Question: What is the difference between a patent and a trademark?


Simply put, patents cover new inventions, while trademarks cover those things that help identify the source of a good or service.  For instance, a patent may cover a new kind of shoe (or part of a shoe), while a trademark will cover everything about that shoe that lets a customer know who made the shoe.  Both patents and trademarks are registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).

As with all forms of intellectual property law, there is some overlap between patents and trademarks.  For instance, Design Patents are a special type of patent that cover the ornamental design of a functional item.  So long as that ornamental design helps a consumer identify who manufactured the item, this design will also be eligible for registration as trade dress (a special type of “trademark”).

Types of subject matter may be eligible for patents and/or trademarks:

  1. Name of shoe company (TRADEMARK);
  2. New type of laces (PATENT);
  3. Musical jingle used in company’s advertising (TRADEMARK);
  4. New method of manufacturing shoes (PATENT);
  5. Shoe company’s logo (TRADEMARK);
  6. New function of shoe (PATENT);
  7. New kind of rubber that makes up the shoe’s sole (PATENT);
  8. Slogan used to advertise shoe company (TRADEMARK);
  9. New structural design of shoe (PATENT);
  10. Ornamental design of shoe (DESIGN PATENT AND/OR TRADE DRESS)

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