Patents and trademarks are both forms of intellectual properties protections enforceable under United States law. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is responsible for examining and approving patent and trademark requests, and maintaining records of all patents and trademarks which have been filed since its inception, whether active or inactive.
The USPTO keeps the records of patents and trademarks separate because they both protect two different forms of intellectual property. The main difference is that a patent protects a tangible invention, product, or a composition of matter, while a trademark protects intangible assets in a company, such as a logo or brand name which provide an image of a company to the public.
Patents temporarily protect physical articles and compositions of matter created by inventors. No other company can recreate, sell, or offer for sale a patented invention. Trademarks, in contrast, protect intangible marks that a company uses to market such inventions. Taking advantage of both forms of intellectual property is essential for businesses and inventors. Without a trademark, a business will have unique products, but their image may be hurt from competitors using identical marks. Without a patent, a company will have a protected image, but they will no longer have a 100 percent market share on a product.
Patents are designed exclude all other parties, aside from the inventor, from recreating the inventor's tangible work for a period of twenty years. Patents have other stipulations attached to them as well, each designed to help stimulate innovative ideas with the intention of expanding the economy.
Although the inventor has exclusive rights to the invention, the details of the invention must be disclosed to the public in exchange for those rights. This helps the spread of new ideas without keeping the ideas behind inventions as a secret. Overall, the two main goals of patents are to reward inventors for their labor and to help an economy stay healthy and expand.
Trademarks, while similar to patents, are designed with different goals in mind. Since trademarks protect intangible objects, such as logos, images, sounds, and other ways in which a company identifies itself to the public, a trademark protects a company and its product's image.
When a trademark is granted by the USPTO, a company has exclusive rights to use it and other companies cannot use that mark or marks found to be too similar. Not only does this help businesses distinguish themselves from others, but it also protects customers as well. Trademark infringement can create confusion among customers, so the enforcement of trademarks helps customers understand the products they are buying and from who they are buying it from.