Subject Matter of Patents and Trademarks
There may be some overlap between patents and trademarks at the edges where design patents cover ornamental features and trademarks cover product configurations. However, for the most part, if your product is special because it performs a new function or has a different structure, it probably falls under the scope of patents. Conversely, if your product is special because of the aesthetic appearance, name, or logo, you should investigate trademarks or service marks.
Scope of Protection of Patents and Trademarks
If you successfully obtain a patent, you can prevent others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the patented invention. This effectively cuts off competitors from making a product that includes the features that are the subject of your patent.
If you successfully register a trademark, competitors can be stopped from using any mark that is likely to cause confusion with your registered trademark. This allows the registrant to force competitors to stop using any mark that looks, sounds, or has a similar meaning to the registered trademark.
Benefits of Combining Patents and Trademarks
Businesses are not required to choose between patents and trademarks. In fact, many businesses take advantage of the differing purposes of patents and trademarks to obtain both, thereby keeping competitors away from both the patented product and its marketing.
For example, if a business obtains a patent, but not a trademark, competitors would be able to market inferior products in a way that might deceive customers into believing that it was the patented product.
Similarly, if a business obtains a trademark, but not a patent, competitors might copy the product and simply market it under a different name and logo.
By obtaining both a patent and a trademark, a business can prevent competitors from copying either the patented product or the identifiers used to distinguish the patented product in the marketplace.