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How are copyright, patent and trademark suits different?

Intellectual property relates to ideas, inventions, symbols, names, designs, music, trademarks, writing, art and the ownership of these and other kinds of items. Under intellectual property laws, people and businesses can own specific rights so that only they can profit from and use particular pieces of intellectual property. When another party violates those rights by trying to use intellectual property for profit without permission, then a lawsuit can be filed.

Three of the most common kinds of intellectual property suits fall under the categories of: copyright, patent and trademark. We will briefly discuss the differences among these three areas of the intellectual property law.

A copyright refers to the party that owns a literary or artistic work. Generally, the creator will be the original owner, but copyrights can be sold to other parties. Books, paintings, music, films, computer programs and maps can all be copyrighted, and the copyright owner is the only one that may distribute and profit from these items.

Copyrights usually cover expressions of art, whereas patents protect inventions, providing the inventor with control over use of the invention. For example, chemical compounds, integrated circuits, computer parts and special manufacturing processes can all be patented. Once patented, specific details of the invention will be publicly available through the patent office and no one will be permitted to copy them.

Finally, trademarks are used to identify one business from another. After registering a trademark, the registrant will have the sole right to use a particular mark. Trademarks can be a series of letters, words and numerals.They can be symbols, drawings, 3D shapes, fragrances, sounds and even specific colors that identify a business. Logos, musical jingles, sound effects and taglines are different types of trademarks.

Canadian business owners who fear that their intellectual property rights are being violated can assert their rights in court, seek financial damages, and work to stop other parties from using and profiting from their intellectual property.

Source: FindLaw, "Five types of intellectual property," accessed Jan. 22, 2016

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