Read this tip to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Obtaining a Patent and other Invention topics.
Before you patent an idea, you should understand the difference between patents and trademarks. The administration of both patents and trademarks is handled by the US Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C. But they have distinct functions. A patent is given to an inventor of a unique product or technology so that person is guaranteed no one else can profit from the use or sale of the new idea in question. Have you ever seen the letter R in a circle after a name of a product? That means registered trademark. Examples are Velcro, Bubble Wrap and Post-It Notes.
A trademark is a word or phrase that allows a product to be distinguished from others like it in the minds of consumers. In other words, a trademark is a brand name. A service mark is a type of trademark that can be represented by a phrase or symbol. As such, trademarks protect a marketing idea rather than a unique invention. For example, the type of tracing device that has become a widely used toy is patented but the name, Etch A Sketch is trademarked. Additionally, as in the case of Kleenex, others manufacturers can make tissues but they can't call them Kleenex. The brand name, Kleenex is relying on consumer devotion to sell their product. While patents are good for a certain time period, trademarks are good for as long as the product is in use. So, if you want to make sure the public does not confuse your product's image with that of another, you might want to research getting a trademark. You can find out more about trademarks at uspto.gov, the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office.