For complete information about trademarks, see the US Patent and Trademark Office's informational website.
Brief Definition: A trademark is a name, symbol or phrase used in interstate commerce to identify the source of a product or service. A business or company name is a trade name and cannot be registered federally.
There are two types of trademarks typically registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office:
For more information about trademarks, see the helpful links below:
For complete information about patents see the US Patent and Trademark Office's Web pages and see a patent attorney or agent to ensure a thorough understanding.
Brief Definition: A (U.S.) patent is a grant of a property right by the (U.S.) Government to you, the inventor, "to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention." Patents differ significantly from copyrights and trademarks.
All patents must be "maintained" by paying a fee to the US Patent & Trademark Office at certain intervals. If you fail to pay the maintenance fee, your patent expires and you lose exclusive rights to your invention. Only a special act of Congress (pretty rare!) can extend the term of a patent, though certain pharmaceutical patents (a special type of chemical patent, not to be confused with patent medicines) don't require such extreme measures.
For more in-depth information about patents, check out the guide below.
Trade secrets are a type of Intellectual Property (IP) the have an economic value because they are not generally known or readily ascertainable by others, and which the owner takes reasonable measures to keep secret. Outside of the United States such secrets may be referred to as confidential information.
Probably the best known trade secret is the formula for Coca-Cola, which was first invented in 1888.