Patents vs. Copyrights

Intellectual Property is the foundation of all intangible assets that humans have – whether in the form of inventions, music, arts, logos, slogan, business name, etc. Aside from the unique set of DNAs, your creations in mind makes you unique as an individual – it is for you to ascertain the proper protection and legal rights it provides.

Today, one of the most intriguing contentions in the field of Intellectual Property is the close relationship between patents and copyrights – they looked like identical twins – but in the face of the law, both have separate and distinct nature.

More importantly, as you begin to make your creation of the mind, you begin to consider the costs, complexity, and competitive edge you desire. Hence, make the right choice in getting a suitable IP protection. This article will guide on the difference between patent and copyright.

What is Patent?

Generally, patents protect the logic and formula of an idea. As your invention or design obtains patent protection, the law guarantees you exclusive rights, excluding others from the making, using, offering for sale, or importing within a limited territorial scope.

In other words, patents directly belong to the inventor – whether individual or organization. More often, inventors choose to monetize their patented inventions through IP Valuation, provided that they meet the standard conditions as required by the law.

When people think about patents, the general perception stems from robots, medicines, solar panels, and the like. However, there are two foundations on how to get a patent – Utility Patents and Design Patents.

What is a Copyright?

A copyright doesn’t protect the facts, methods, inventions, process, logic, and function of a mind’s creation. Rather, a copyright protects an artist’s expression or also known as “original works of authorship.”

As a general rule, copyrights don’t extend their protection to ideas and procedures. However, the law provides eight categories of work that can be subject to copyright, including:

(1) Musical pieces, including the lyrics;

(2) Literary sources, such as books, poems, novels, etc.;

(3) Original choreography;

(4) Architectural designs and structures;

(5) Audiovisual works;

(6) Dramatic works with accompanied music;

(7) Sound recordings; and

(8) Graphic, pictorial, and sculptural works.

What are the differences between a Patent and a Copyright?

Requirements for IP Protection

In Patent laws, the requirements for IP protection can differ in two divisions – the Utility Patent and the Design Patent

Utility Patents primarily protect how an invention works on its internal function and structure – protecting a physical device, a step-by-step method, a chemical or biological composition, or a unique assembly.

Under the four patent requirements imposed by the USPTO, you need to comply with the following:

(1) Patentable Subject Matter. Under the law, the patentable subject matter of an invention should satisfy two criteria: the statutory and the judicial requirements.

First, your invention must fall into the category of process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter to qualify for the statutory requirement.

Second, if your invention fails to fall under the statutory requirement, you need to provide that it doesn’t qualify within exceptions recognized by the court, such as the laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas.

(2) Novelty. Your invention must be new and original that doesn’t infringe on other existing and published inventions, as found in the “Prior Art” references.

(3) Useful. The law requires your invention to enable someone’s functionality and utility in the commerce and industry, such as computer and tech devices that enhance an existing system.

(4) Non-Obvious. In line with novelty, your invention must not reflect the combination of multiple prior art references, which leaves an impression of imitating published ideas.

Design Patents preserves and protects the external look of your invention, particularly on its ornamental characteristics. Note that ornamental characteristics involve the shape, configuration, and surface applied to the invention.

Unlike utility patents, a design patent doesn’t protect the mechanical structure of an invention.

On the other hand, there are only three elements to comply to copyright your creations:

(1) Fixation. Fixation means to produce a tangible medium to copyright your original work. For instance, it is not enough that you have recorded a song without writing down the lyrics. As a general rule, you need to lock your creative idea in a permanent state.

(2) Expression. Expression refers to the publication of your expressed idea. As a general rule, your idea cannot be subject to copyright if you don’t express them in a fixed and publicized manner.

(3) Originality. From the name itself, your work needs to be original that has a creative expression that is distinct from other publicized works. In filing for a copyright application, you need to list some elements that you don’t own to avoid the rigid limitations of your work.

Channels for Registration

For patent applications, you need to find a patent attorney who will simplify the complex process of patent registration. In Bold Patent, their world-class trademark lawyers have helped the publication of numerous inventions. Hence, both Utility Patents and Design Patents can be submitted electronically through the USPTO website, by mail, or by fax.

For copyright applications, your original and creative artworks can be submitted by registering for a copyright at Once you have submitted your application, the website prompts you to either upload your work online or send a mail through the Copyright Office.

If you mail them, you need to provide a copy of your unpublished piece and two copies of pieces that were published in a printed format.

Limitation of Use

In patent rights, the limitation of use for a Utility Patent depends on what type of application – if the utility patent is filed under Provisional Application, the U.S. applicants are held on equal footing with foreign applicants, giving them 12 extra months during the pending patent application. But if the patent is filed under Non-Provisional Application, the patent examiner can directly examine your invention. By which, after a successful examination, you can monetize and sell your invention in commerce.

In copyrights, the inception of the original work of art automatically inherits a legal right. But still, the law requires you to publish your expressed idea for copyright protection. One of the benefits of copyright registration is that it lasts for the entire life of the author plus 70 years.

Geographical Scope of Protection

Copyright Law is national and territorial in scope. Meaning, regardless of where the author resides or the place where the work was published, the copyright law protects his art from potential infringement, making

In terms of patented inventions, you only need to remember that your inventions are only protected in countries with a valid patent member.

Key Takeaways

Intellectual Property is the flagship of all innovations and R&D in the form of inventions, music, arts, logos, slogan, and business name. While IPs are intangible assets, it calls for a proper protection and enforcement of legal right to avoid potential infringer.

In the first look, patents and copyrights are interchangeable terms. However, the demarcation lies on how an idea is protected.

As a general rule, if an expressed idea is protected, then it refers to a copyright. Otherwise, if the inner idea in the form of inventions, methods, or processes are protected, then it is a patent protection.

To highlight the differences, here are four differences between a copyright and a patent:

(1) Requirements for IP Protection;

(2) Channels for Registration;

(3) Limitation of Use; and

(4) Geographical Scope of Protection.


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Libby Austin

Libby Austin, the creative force behind, is a dynamic and versatile writer known for her engaging and informative articles across various genres. With a flair for captivating storytelling, Libby's work resonates with a diverse audience, blending expertise with a relatable voice.
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