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The Law Office of Joan I. Norek

        Intellectual Property

            Chicago, Illinois

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Patents vs Trademarking


Never try to protect an innovation by trademarking when a patent is possible.

  • patents protect new and useful inventions, from gadgets to pharmaceuticals to software to ...

  • trademarks protect brand names, logos and other source designators

  • patents prevent competitors from making, selling or using anything which is or includes the patented innovation

  • trademarks prevent competitors from using confusingly similar trademarks

  • trademarks do not, in any fashion, prevent competitors from making, selling and using the innovation

  • trademarks provide exclusivity to the use of the trademark

  • patents provide exclusivity to the use/sale of the innovation


If you try shielding an innovation with a trademark rather than a patent, you are betting against yourself.  If the innovation has any success in the marketplace, the success will be lost to competitors.  The initial success gives competitors a free market survey.


I came across the following misleading statement, prominently placed, on a very popular and successful website:

"You can also use the mark to maintain yourself as the exclusive source of a product or service."

Wrong, wrong, wrong, or at minimum very misleading.  It would be correct if it said:


"You can also use the mark to maintain yourself as the exclusive source of a product brand or service brand, although the same product or service can be sold by competitors under different brand names (trademarks)."

Again, trademark exclusivity runs to the brand name, not the product.  Patent exclusivity runs to the product, and not the brand name.


Example - McDonald's has acquired an immense degree of exclusivity in its McDonald's trademark, but none whatsoever in hamburger.  You can make and sell hamburgers as similar in appearance and taste as you choose, but you cannot call them McDonald's.


The only IP area that provides product/service exclusivity is patents, and that exclusivity is gained only if your invention (it must be yours, not something you have seen) meets the rigorous novelty and nonobviousness requirements.


More comparisons:

  • patents limited to innovations that meet the rigorous new and nonobvious standands

  • trademark requirements do not approach patent requirements, either as to type or severity

  • patent exclusivity lasts only for a set period of years, and cannot be renewed

  • trademarks can be renewed and renewed, as long as the mark is kept in use, and therefore can approach being perpetual.

But again, trademarks are not a "cure" to the thresholds and limitations of the otherwise-awesome power of patents.  Trademarks provide no product exclusivity, merely brand name exclusivity.  Do not trademark when you should patent.


Nothing, absolutely nothing, in trademark law prevents competitors from duplicating an unpatented innovation.


other topics - patent applications, trademark registrations, about patents, about trademarks, patents vs trade secrets, trademark myths, patent it or not, patent ready, patent myths

questions, inquiries - contact the firm (all contact modes) or call 312.419.8055

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The Law Office of Joan I. Norek
25 E. Washington Street, Suite 1400
Chicago, Illinois  60602
Tel.  312.419.8055   Fax 312.236.6686
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Copyright 2004 - 2014 Joan I. Norek, The Law Office of Joan I. Norek 
All rights reserved.
noreklaw, noreklaw.com and PatentAttitude are trademarks and service marks of Joan I. Norek, Chicago, Illinois.

Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website provides information and resources but is neither legal advice nor a substitute for the legal advice of an IP attorney.  Retentions are subject to the discretion of the firm.
This website was designed and constructed by Joan I. Norek.