Patent vs Trademark: What's the Difference? | iGERENT

Patent vs Trademark: What's the Difference?

Intellectual property is only valuable as long as it is protected.

You have created a life changing invention or product, but how can you protect it? A patent, right? Maybe a trademark? Is there even a difference? Simply put, yes. A patent protects your invention, while a trademark protects the brand.

With millions of dollars and your competitive advantage on the line, simple answers won't cut it. The question of patent vs. trademark ultimately comes down to what you seek to protect, with each carrying its own application process, set of standards, and life span.

Here's the breakdown:

A trademark is a visible symbol, sound or even smell that is used to identify a specific product or service.

You have your own comic book series? You're out of luck if you were considering using the term "superhero" on your title page. That's right, Marvel and D.C. share a trademark on the word superhero and will hunt down any known use of it.

Some common trademarks seen daily:

  • Apple
  • Nike 
  • McDonald's


These marks do not mean that Apple is the only company that can produce cell phones and computers, only that no other company can commercialize cell phones or computers under this name or any other that may be considered similar.

A trademark is about the Swoosh. The Golden Arches. Those images that have been engrained into your mind from the day you were born. Trademarks capture the identity of a business - what makes them unique.

The above examples correspond to global brands. Therefore, a registered trademark translates to global protection, right? Wrong. As it is, trademarks have territorial validity. Meaning that a trademark registered in Germany is not effective in Italy. For this reason, it is a good idea to register a trademark in every country that the brand will be used.

You do not need to be from a specific country to register a trademark in that country. Apart from certain very specific restrictions, a citizen or a company from any country can register their trademark in any other country.

There is also no time limit on how long a trademark can be protected. While in most countries the validity of a trademark is of 10 years, they can usually be renewed indefinitely upon payment of the appropriate fees.

By nature, registering a trademark is a complex system and the costs to register and protect your trademark will depend on numerous factors. To make it easier, we can provide you with a straightforward quote.

As we stated before, a patent involves protection of a unique invention. This property right is granted in the country of registration.

A common question posed to entrepreneurs and inventors is if they hold a patent on their invention. If you own a patent, you are the only person who can make, use, and even your product. Patents are active for 20 years, with the payment of maintenance fees. Patents, unlike trademarks, cannot be renewed.

There are three main criteria that an invention must meet in order to be patentable: 

  1. It must be novel
  2. It must be non-obvious
  3. It must have an industrial application

Essentially, this means that your invention must be new, the invention must not be a simple combination or alteration of a previous invention and it must be functional.

Just like trademarks, a registered patent will only be valid for the countries it has been registered in.

Whether you are a global corporation, or a small business; whether you are based in a specific country or spread all over the globe, the importance of legal protection for intellectual property never diminishes.

With the right legal help and people to guide the way, you can make the process of protecting your intellectual property smooth and painless.

If you have any doubt regarding which type of intellectual property you should register to obtain adequate protection, please contact us.