The Congress shall have power .  .  .
                   To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,
                   by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors
                   the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.     
                                                                   --U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8
Patents, Trademarks & Copyrights:
A Summary
Some Notable Quotes:

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."-
-Alan Kay

"Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible." --Doug Larson                     

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls, and looks like work.".--Thomas A. Edison

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
-- Charles H. Duell, Comm'r, U.S. Patent Office, 1899.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."--Albert Einstein

“I have some pet theories as to the proper construction of a flying machine. I wish to avail myself of all that is already known and then if possible add my
mite to help on the future worker who will attain final success.”        
--Wilbur Wright
NOTICE: This website provides general information only, not legal advice. You should not act upon this information without
independent legal counsel.  The information on this website is not guaranteed to be current, complete, or accurate. The O'Connell
Law Office is able to represent clients throughout the world with respect to matters of United States Federal Law, such as patents,
federal trademarks & copyrights.  Thomas P. O'Connell, Esq. is licensed to practice in the United States Patent & Trademark Office,
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the U.S. Federal District Court for Massachusetts, and the Court of Appeals for the Federal
Circuit.  This material may be considered to be advertising under the rules of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

© 2004-2014 O'Connell Law Office.  All Rights Reserved.
It can reasonably be said that every business person and legal practitioner should
have at least a basic understanding of the essential concepts of intellectual property
law.  Understanding the differences between patents, trademarks, and copyrights
and how rights can be gained -- and lost -- in relation to each can be critical to the
protection of one's own interests and the interests of a practitioner's clients.

Set forth below is a basic summary of each form of intellectual property.  However,
particularly since certain actions and failures to act can result in potentially
irremediable prejudice to one's rights, it is imperative that the reader consult with
appropriate legal personnel, whether that be the O'Connell Law Office or another
intellectual property office, to ensure that any action that is taken or not taken will
not result in inadvertent prejudice to rights and properties that might otherwise be

In reviewing this material and in contemplating how to go forward, please bear in
mind that the reader can contact the
O'Connell Law Office at any time.  There is
no fee for an initial consultation.

A patent for an invention is a grant of property rights by the U.S. Government
through the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The owner of a patent has the
right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing the invention in the
United States and the territories and possessions of the United States.

Utility patents that expired prior to June 8, 1995 were subject to a patent term of
seventeen (17) years from the patent's issue date.  Patents not yet expired as of
June 8, 1995 and patents that issued from applications pending before June 8,
1995 have a term of 17 years from the date of issue or 20 years from their earliest
effective filing date, whichever is longer.  Patents filed on or after June 8, 1995 are
subject to a term of twenty (20) years from their earliest effective filing date.  A
design patent term is 14 years from patent grant.

Terms such as "Patent Pending" are used to inform the public that an application
for a patent has been filed. Patent protection does not start until the actual grant of
a patent. Falsely marking an article as patented or patent pending is illegal and
subject to penalty.  

A trademark can comprise any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination
used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of
one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to
indicate the source of the goods.  In short, a trademark is a brand name.

A service mark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or
intended to be used, in commerce, to identify and distinguish the services of one
provider from the services provided by others, and to indicate the source of the
services.  The terms "trademark" and "mark" are commonly used to refer to both
trademarks and servicemarks.

Federal trademark registration has several benefits:

  • Constructive notice nationwide of the trademark owner's claim.
  • Evidence of ownership of the trademark.
  • Jurisdiction of federal courts may be invoked.
  • Registration can be used as a basis for obtaining registration in foreign
  • Registration may be filed with U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation
    of infringing foreign goods.

Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar
mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the
same goods or services under a clearly different mark. Trademarks which are used
in interstate or foreign commerce may be registered with the Patent and
Trademark Office.

Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of
authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other
intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act
generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the
copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or
phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly,
or to display the copyrighted work publicly.

The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the
writing. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this
would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent
others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the
machine. Copyrights are registered by the Copyright Office of the Library of
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