Copyright protects original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Copyright prevents third parties from using (in whole or in part), the copyright protected work without the prior permission of the owner; uses include making copies, publishing, and making derivative works. The only exception to this is the “Fair Use” doctrine. Copyright protection is afforded a work the moment it is recorded in a tangible means of expression, i.e. the moment it is written down. Examples include: writings, musical works, dramatic works, pictures, graphics and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audio visual works, sound recordings, and computer programs. Generally speaking a copyright is granted for 95 years following “publication”.


A patent is a right granted to the owner of an invention that prevents others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without the owner’s permission. A patentable invention can be a product or a process that gives a new technical solution to a problem. To be patentable an invention must embody some new idea or principle not before known. Unlike copyright, patent protection is afforded an invention once an actual patent has been granted to the inventor by the U.S. Patent Office. It takes approximately 2 years for a patent to issue and costs anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000. Most patents are granted for a period of 20 years. Design patents are granted for a period of 14 years.


A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A “service mark” is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Trademark protection lasts for as long as the trademark is in use. Trademark fees for electronic applications are currently $275–$325 per class of goods or services. Attorney fees can run 2 to 3 hours in normal cases.