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Hey crafters, I feel like we need to take a step back quickly to define and look at the differences between copyrights, trademarks, and patents. I regularly see these terms used interchangeably by Silhouette and Cricut crafters online – but they really can’t be switched out. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are three entirely different things. Today, let’s break down the differences.
Copyrights vs. Trademarks vs. Patents
- What they protect: Original intellectual property.
- Examples: Original books, movies, songs, computer software, artistic works, poetry.
- What they don’t protect: Domain names, recipes, brand names, ideas, slogans, or phrases.
- How to look them up: Use the online database archived from 1978 to present at this link.
- How to obtain: Since 1978, copyrights are automatically given when a work is created. If you’d like to formally register a copyright, visit this link for the paperwork. Costs start at $35 and at the time of writing this post, turnaround time is 6 to 8 months when filed online. Registering a copyright is voluntary and you’ll only need to register if you’d like to take legal action against someone.
- What they protect: Brand names, logos, and things that identify a brand or their product.
- Examples: Logos of companies, names of products, slogans and taglines used for advertising. Anything that identifies one brand from another can be trademarked.
- How to look them up: Use the TESS database. I’ve got a tutorial on how to access and search the database at this link.
- How to obtain: If you are interested in trademarking something related to your brand, your best bet is to contact a lawyer who specializes in the trademarking process. Trademarking is much more expensive than copyright protection and if the paperwork is not correctly filed, you will not receive a refund for a do over.
- What they protect: The rights of inventors of products and processes. Patents insure that an invention created by an individual or a company cannot be made by another without the permission of the inventor.
- Examples: Many products are patented. For example, the Tee Square It that I’ve recommended before is a patent protected product.
- How to look them up: Use the PRTC database at this link.
- How to obtain: Similar to trademarking, patents should be filed by a lawyer or attorney who specializes in filing them. Since patents aren’t applicable to many craft businesses, I’m not well educated on the filing processes – although I do know that it is lengthy.
Remember, an informed craft business owner is a good craft business owner.
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Since 2015, Christine Schinagl has been helping crafters start and run craft businesses through her blog, Cutting for Business. As a Silhouette and Cricut crafter herself, she has a unique take on what works and what doesn’t work in the craft business world. She also teaches a course on creating digital SVG designs, available at How to Design SVGs.