Patents, Trademarks, Copyright 

Intellectual Property Law in the U.S.

Intellectual property describes the protection of various types of creative works. It is particularly important for those starting an LLC to familiarize themselves with IP laws, to avoid lawsuits and plagiarism in the future. There are three basic types of intellectual property:

  • Patents protect an inventive product or process.
  • Copyright protects an original creative work fixed in a tangible medium of expression.
  • Trademarks protect a word, symbol, or other designation of the unique source of a product.


A patent issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office grants to the patent owner a right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling a claimed invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States.  A patentable invention includes patentable subject matter and is new and non-obvious compared to matter known in the art.  An applicant files a patent application, and the resulting patent protects the applicant’s rights in the claimed invention, typically for 20 years from the filing date.

Rights of the patent owner are defined by the claims of the patent.  In order for one to infringe a patent, one must perform each and every limitation recited in one of the claims.  Language in the claims is open to interpretation, and courts afford the patent owner protection to equivalents of recited limitations.  Interpretation of the claim limitations can be restricted by statements and claim amendments made during the prosecution of a patent application.


An owner of a copyright can prevent others from reproducing, distributing, performing, publicly displaying, or making a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.  A copyrightable work can be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.  In order to be registered, the applicant provides a copy of the work and a fee which then become the property of the Library of Congress.

The creator of the work is typically the owner of the copyright unless ownership is transferred by a written agreement or the work was created as a work-made-for-hire.


A trademark is a word, symbol, or other designation that identifies a unique source of a product to the public.  A service mark is similar to a trademark except that it identifies a unique source of a service provided to the public.  A trademark permits the owner of the trademark to stop others from using a similar mark that would be likely to cause confusion in the public as to the source of the products.  A trademark can be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Trademarks must be used in commerce to be enforced, although intent to use trademark application can be filed in preparation for use in commerce.

The strength of a trademark increases with the distinctiveness of the mark. Further, strength of a trademark is increased by the mark being arbitrary or suggestive of the product rather than being merely descriptive or generic to the product.  A trademark can be destroyed or taken by the public, for example, by genericide.  A trademark owner can take actions to police use of the mark in order to prevent damage being done to the mark.

Information Presented Herein For Informational Purposes Only.

The content of this web page is for informational purposes only, is a public service, and is not intended to advertise, invite or form an attorney-client relationship, or to serve as or constitute legal advice. Since legal advice is not being provided, you should not rely upon any information contained herein for any purpose without seeking legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.  Information provided on this web page is presented “as is” and the author makes no warranties or representations of any kind concerning any information presented on or through this Web site.  The information herein is provided only as general information and may not reflect the most current legal developments.  Vincent Re PLLC expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or inactions based upon the presented information or with respect to any errors or omissions in such information.

Written by Vincent Re PLLC – Patent Attorney and Intellectual Property Counselor

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