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Patents, Copyrights & Trademarks

Resources

U.S. Copyright Office
copyright.gov
(202) 707-3000

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
uspto.gov
(800) 786-9199

Patents: Original machines, technical processes or methods, manufactured items and chemical compositions may be patented. “Utility patents,” for new inventions or functional improvements of existing inventions, remain in effect for 20 years; “design patents” are effective for 14 years.

Inventors should apply to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for a patent or a provisional patent (only available in some cases) as soon as possible.

The PTO’s website includes searchable databases and downloadable forms.

Copyrights: Original writing, musical works, artistic designs and other works of expression are protected under federal copyright law, which gives the author exclusive rights to use the works.

Although an author’s copyright is automatic when a work is created, a copyright notice informs the public and competitors that the work is protected.

For a copyright notice, place the word “copyright” or the symbol ©, the year of first publication and the name of the owner of the copyright. A copyright can be registered through the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. Copyrights last 70 years after the author’s death.

Trademarks: These are words (“Where Shopping is a Pleasure” from Publix), symbols (Outback Steakhouse’s kangaroo logo), names (Gator Nation), Internet domain names (FloridaTrend.com), packaging (Truly Nolen’s mouse vehicle) and labeling (SOMA BY
CHICO’S) that distinguish one business’s product from another’s.

Trademarks may be registered through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or, for more limited state protection, with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations (see “dba Florida”).



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