How Patents Differ From Copyrights and Trademarks FAQ

How do patents differ from copyrights?



1. How do patents differ from copyrights?

With the exception of innovative designs, patents are closely associated with things and processes that are useful in the real world. Almost at the opposite end of the spectrum, copyrights protect expressive arts such as novels, fine and graphic arts, music, phonorecords, photography, software, video, cinema and choreography. While it is possible to get a patent on technologies used in the arts, copyrights are what keeps one artist from stealing another artist's creative work.

An exception to the general rule is that design patents, which protect the ornamental design of products, can overlap with copyrights. These two legal protections overlap when functional objects -- for example, guitars, table tiles, clay pots, or running shoes -- embody a distinctive or pleasing visual appearance.

For more information about copyright law, see Nolo's Copyright Resource Center

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