Copyrights, Trademarks, & Patents

An important part of creating products and services, establishing your brand, and protecting these unique assets is obtaining trademarks, copyrights, and patents when applicable. This process requires the assistance of an intellectual property lawyer to ensure that you are not infringing on existing intellectual property (IP) and to make sure your IP is fully protected. The State Bar of New Mexico offers consultations at discounted rates and will be able to double check your business licenses. You can also learn the basics of each of these forms of intellectual property at the United States Copyright Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) websites.

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The United States Copyright Office defines a copyright as “A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for 'original works of authorship', including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations.” This means that ideas or anything that is not originally created cannot be protected under copyright law.

The symbol © is used to indicate copyrighted material. 

The USPTO defines a trademark as “a brand name”…including “any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services”. Any image with the ® symbol indicates the mark is registered with the federal government, while the symbol ™ indicates an unregistered trademark.

It is not mandatory to federally register this mark, although it does have advantages in that your mark will be listed in the database, putting it on public display so another business or individual does not try to use it. It also will aid you in the event you become involved in a lawsuit over infringement. In order for a trademark to be registered, it must be unique and related to your product or service. Generic names or symbols cannot be protected. 

The patent law allows the person who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent”. This definition does not allow for ideas, laws of nature, or physical phenomena to be eligible for patent protection. The invention must be non-obvious and new in order to meet the requirements.

There are a few different types of patents that can be obtained. For example, design patents protect the appearance of an object and utility patents  protect the function of the invention. The process of writing a patent is a learned art. You must adequately describe your invention, without being too specific to preclude any periphery protections. The filing process is also complex and will require the counsel of an expert. If you are interested in patenting an invention or are curious about commercializing existing technology, you can contact Technology Ventures Corporation (TVC) for information and training on writing a patent or visit the BRC's Technology Commercialization page.