A patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing the patented product or process. However, a patentee does not give the patentee the right to make, use, sell, or import the patented product or process. In exchange for teaching the public how to make and use the invention, including describing the best mode of carrying out the invention, the patentee is granted a patent for a term of 20 years from the date of filing a patent application in the United States.
Trademarks, trade names and service marks can be some of the most valuable assets to any business. Words, symbols, logos, slogans, and designs used in connection with products and processes in commerce identify the source of the goods and the quality of the same to consumers. Trademark rights can be acquired through actual and continuous use of a product or in connection with a service in commerce.
Although a patent has an enforceable life of a maximum of 20 years, a trade secret maybe enforced indefinitely as long as it is kept secret and remains undiscovered. Trade secrets can be extremely valuable assets to any business if maintained and policed properly.
A copyright provides the creator or originator of a work the right to copy, distribute, and adapt the work. A copyright protects the expression of an idea but not the idea itself. Copyrights are commonly used for works such as books, movies, paintings, photographs, and software.