It’s easy to confuse copyrights, trademarks, service marks, patents and other intellectual property protections, but they all serve quite different purposes. To effectively safeguard your work and the intellectual property that keeps your business ahead of the competition, it’s important to know the differences between these protections and which one is appropriate for your needs.
Below we have provided a brief overview of each:
A copyright is a type of intellectual property protection, registered by the Library of Congress’ Copyright Office, afforded to the authors of original works of authorship expressed in a tangible medium, such as musical, artistic, literary, dramatic and other works. A copyright gives you (and no one else) the exclusive right to distribute copies or recordings of your work, to perform or display your work publicly, to reproduce your work and to prepare any further works derived from the original.
A copyright does not protect the subject matter of your work, so others can base their own original work on yours. The copyright only protects your specific form of expression.
A patent, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office, awards the property rights of an invention to the inventor for 20 years from the date of the patent application. Patents exclude other parties from constructing, using, importing, selling or offering to sell the invention themselves.
Trademarks and service marks
A trademark or service mark, also registered with the Patent and Trademark Office, is used in the trade of goods to indicate the source through an identifying symbol, name, device or word. Trademark rights ensure that the makers of similar goods cannot package those goods with a mark similar to your own.
The Uniform Trade Secrets Act
The U.S. Virgin Islands has also adapted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which was enacted by the U.S. a few decades ago to better protect the trade secrets of American companies that, because they operated in multiple states, were more vulnerable to an exposure of their trade secrets.
The Trade Secrets Act established a uniform trade secret law to deal with any uncertainty associated with a patent, while allowing each state and territory some flexibility with its text. In short, it protects your patent and trade secrets by providing a framework for legal recourse if another company obtains, uses or tries to acquire your protected works.
Although it’s very clear when a patent is appropriate, it may occasionally be difficult to determine whether you need a copyright or a trademark for your work. In these situations, seek the assistance of a skilled intellectual property attorney.
BolgNagi is a widely respected and well-established intellectual property and civil litigation law firm that serves clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.