Patent vs. Copyright: What's the Difference?
Patents protect inventions and processes, while copyrights protect original works of authorship.
Patents are legal protections granted by the government to inventors, allowing them exclusive rights to make, use, or sell their inventions for a limited period. Copyrights, on the other hand, are forms of protection provided to the creators of original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, and certain other intellectual works.
A patent is awarded for a new and useful invention or process, providing the inventor exclusive rights, typically for 20 years. Copyrights protect original artistic or literary works, giving the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display the work, generally lasting the author's life plus 70 years.
Patents require a formal application process, including a detailed description of the invention, and are subject to approval by a patent office. Copyright protection is automatic upon creation of the work and does not require formal registration, although registration can provide additional legal benefits.
To obtain a patent, the invention must be novel, non-obvious, and have practical utility. Copyrights protect creative expressions but do not extend to ideas, methods of operation, or utilitarian aspects of objects.
The scope of protection differs: patents cover the functional aspects of an invention, preventing others from making or selling the patented invention. Copyrights protect the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves, and prevent unauthorized copying or distribution of the work.
Type of Protection
Inventions and processes.
Original works of authorship.
Typically 20 years.
Life of the author plus 70 years.
Requirement for Protection
Formal application and approval.
Automatic upon creation; registration optional.
Functional aspects of an invention.
Expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves.
Criteria for Protection
Novelty, non-obviousness, utility.
Originality and creativity.
Patent and Copyright Definitions
The protected right to exclusively make, use, or sell an invention.
His patent on the software prevents others from copying it.
Legal right granting the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, publish, or sell their work.
Her novel was protected by copyright upon its completion.
A grant made by a government that confers upon the creator of an invention the sole right to make, use, and sell that invention for a set period of time.
To register this right for a piece of work.
He decided to copyright his latest screenplay.
The legal right granted to an author, composer, playwright, publisher, or distributor to exclusive publication, production, sale, or distribution of a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work.
An invention protected by such a grant.
Of or relating to a copyright
A copyright agreement.
A grant of publicly owned land, particularly to a homesteader.
Protected by copyright
Permission to publish copyright material.
The official document of such a grant.
To secure a copyright for.
The land so granted.
(uncountable) The right by law to be the entity which determines who may publish, copy and distribute a piece of writing, music, picture or other work of authorship.
Copyright is a separate legal area from trademarks.
An exclusive right or title.
(countable) Such an exclusive right as it pertains to one or more specific works.
The artist lost the copyrights to her songs when she signed the contract.
The images are still copyright of the original artist.
Protected or conferred by a patent or letters patent
A patent right.
A violation of copyright law; copyright infringement.
Of, relating to, or dealing in patents
To obtain or secure a copyright for some literary or other artistic work.
(also pātnt) Obvious; plain
A patent injustice.
The right of an author or his assignee, under statute, to print and publish his literary or artistic work, exclusively of all other persons. This right may be had in maps, charts, engravings, plays, and musical compositions, as well as in books.
Not blocked; open
A patent duct.
To secure a copyright on.
Spreading open; expanded
A document granting exclusive right to publish and sell literary or musical or artistic work
Relating to or being a nonprescription drug or other medical preparation that is protected by a trademark.
Secure a copyright on a written work;
Did you copyright your manuscript?
Of high quality. Used of flour.
The symbol or notice indicating such protection.
The book's first page had a copyright notice.
To obtain a patent on or for (an invention, for example).
The period during which these rights are in force.
The copyright for the song lasts for the author's lifetime plus 70 years.
To invent, originate, or be the proprietor of (an idea, for example).
A work that is protected by this right.
The painting is a copyright-protected original.
To grant a patent to or for.
An official document granting an appointment, privilege, or right, or some property or title; letters patent.
A specific grant of ownership of a piece of real property; a land patent.
(by extension) A product in respect of which a patent (sense 1.2.2) has been obtained.
A licence or (formal) permission to do something.
A characteristic or quality that one possesses; in particular (hyperbolic) as if exclusively; a monopoly.
(gambling) The combination of seven bets on three selections, offering a return even if only one bet comes in.
To (successfully) register (a new invention) with a government agency to obtain the sole privilege of its manufacture, sale, and use for a specified period.
To obtain (over a piece of real property) a specific grant of ownership.
To be closely associated or identified with (something); to monopolize.
Conspicuous; open; unconcealed.
(baking) Of flour: fine, and consisting mostly of the inner part of the endosperm of the grain from which it is milled.
(medicine) Open, unobstructed; specifically, especially of the ductus arteriosus or foramen ovale in the heart, having not closed as would have happened in normal development.
She has a patent ductus arteriosus that will require surgery to close.
Of an infection: in the phase when the organism causing it can be detected by clinical tests.
Explicit and obvious.
Those claims are patent nonsense.
Especially of a document conferring some privilege or right: open to public perusal or use.
Appointed or conferred by letters patent.
(botany) Of a branch, leaf, etc.: outspread; also, spreading at right angles to the axis.
(law) Protected by a legal patent.
A patent right
To which someone has, or seems to have, a claim or an exclusive claim; also, inventive or particularly suited for.
Open; expanded; evident; apparent; unconcealed; manifest; public; conspicuous.
He had received instructions, both patent and secret.
Open to public perusal; - said of a document conferring some right or privilege; as, letters patent. See Letters patent, under 3d Letter.
Appropriated or protected by letters patent; secured by official authority to the exclusive possession, control, and disposal of some person or party; patented; as, a patent right; patent medicines.
Madder . . . in King Charles the First's time, was made a patent commodity.
Spreading; forming a nearly right angle with the steam or branch; as, a patent leaf.
A letter patent, or letters patent; an official document, issued by a sovereign power, conferring a right or privilege on some person or party.
Four other gentlemen of quality remained mentioned in that patent.
The right or privilege conferred by such a document; hence, figuratively, a right, privilege, or license of the nature of a patent.
If you are so fond over her iniquity, give her patent to offend.
To grant by patent; to make the subject of a patent; to secure or protect by patent; as, to patent an invention; to patent public lands.
A document granting an inventor sole rights to an invention
An official document granting a right or privilege
Obtain a patent for;
Should I patent this invention?
Grant rights to; grant a patent for
Make open to sight or notice;
His behavior has patented an embarrassing fact about him
(of a bodily tube or passageway) open; affording free passage;
Patent ductus arteriosus
Clearly apparent or obvious to the mind or senses;
The effects of the drought are apparent to anyone who sees the parched fields
Made his meaning plain
It is plain that he is no reactionary
In plain view
A government authority conferring a right or title for an invention.
She obtained a patent for her innovative gardening tool.
A legal document detailing this right.
The patent for the device was filed last year.
An invention or process protected by this right.
The company holds several patents in renewable energy technology.
To obtain a patent for an invention.
They decided to patent the new medical device immediately.
How long does a patent last?
Patents typically last for 20 years from the filing date.
What does copyright protect?
Copyright protects original works of authorship, including literature, music, and art.
What is the duration of copyright?
Copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.
Is registration required for copyright?
No, but registration can provide additional legal benefits.
Are patents public record?
Yes, once granted, patents are public record.
What is a patent?
A patent is a legal right granted for a new invention, giving exclusive rights to the inventor.
Do patents require a formal application?
Yes, patents require a formal application and approval process.
Can ideas be patented?
No, patents protect inventions, not abstract ideas.
What happens when copyright expires?
The work enters the public domain and can be freely used.
What is a patentable invention?
An invention must be novel, useful, and non-obvious to be patentable.
Can a patent be renewed?
No, patents have a fixed duration and cannot be renewed.
Are patents valid internationally?
Patents are territorial, but international agreements can facilitate protection in multiple countries.
Can you sell a patent?
Yes, patents can be sold or licensed.
Does copyright protect ideas?
No, it protects the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves.
What qualifies as a copyrighted work?
Any original creative work fixed in a tangible medium qualifies.
Can copyrighted works be publicly accessed?
Yes, but copying or distribution without permission is restricted.
Does copyright protect software?
Yes, software is protected as a literary work.
Do copyrights apply internationally?
Yes, through international treaties and agreements.
Can a patent protect a product design?
Yes, if the design is novel and non-obvious.
Can you license copyrighted works?
Yes, copyright owners can grant licenses for others to use their works.
Written bySawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited byHuma Saeed
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