Know your IP: Differences among copyrights, patents and trademarks

Aug 8, 2018 | Trademark Knowledge

Admit it, sometimes we are confused about the differences between these different types of intellectual property. They are often misused, and often causes confusion. In this article, we will discuss these differences so that you can understand them better.


Once you produce something which can be called intellectual property it needs protection. Things like movies, artworks, literary works, photographs, music etc. all fall under the category of copyright.

Copyright is the right of any person to publish, reproduce or sell their original work. One thing that needs to be cleared up is that copyright only covers the material expression but not any concepts or ideas, so the property you would want to copyright has to be a tangible one. The author or the producer can authorize others to work under this copyright. He or she also has the option to transfer the rights to any copyright.

Your business owns the copyright to works created by employees but outside contractors own the copyright to any work they create for you unless you specify differently in a contract.

Unlike most other intellectual property rights, copyright does not require registration. It is an automatic right upon completion of the work.

In Taiwan, copyrights are valid for the life of the author plus fifty years.  If the author is a company, the copyright is valid for fifty years after the date of first publication.


Definition of patent

A patent is a special right for intellectual property,  in other words rights over material created by one’s intellect. Patent’s can be issued over a number of different materials including discoveries, arts, inventions, symbols, designs and so on. A patent granted in Taiwan is valid for 20 years.

Purpose of patent

The primary purpose of a patent is to protect the inventor’s interests and public welfare. Once you have the patent, you have “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling”, or “importing” the invention.

Lifespan of patent

The total span of a patent varies according to the type of patent in question. Design patents have total span of 15 years from the date of issuing or if it is recorded after May 13, 2015, utility patents or plant patents last for 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was recorded in Taiwan.

Filling procedure

The official language in which patent can be filed is Chinese but late submission in other languages are also possible. The patent application must follow this format: a request, description, claim, abstract, and any drawings. Within 4 months of the initial application for a patent, a signed copy of power of attorney has to be presented. This period of 4 months cannot be extended at any cost. Afterward, a certified copy of the priority document has to be submitted.


Definition of trademark

A trademark is known as a single word or name, an image or gadget that demonstrates the credibility of the source of a product during any trade or exchange process.

Definition of service mark

A service mark is the same as a trademark with the exception that it recognizes and distinguishes the source of a service as opposed to an item. Terms such as “trademark” and “mark” are usually used to identify both trademarks and service marks.

Purpose of trademark

Trademarks are registered with the purpose of preventing others from branding under the same name. But trademarks cannot protect other companies from making the same merchandise or copying inventions. Trademarks are valid for 10 years and can be extended indefinitely. Trademarks need to be registered at the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (TIPO).

Filling process

You must submit necessary documents and pay the designated fees if you want to attain a trademark. We have written a very detailed description of the Taiwan trademark application procedure here. Be sure to do your trademark search and deal with a trusted trademark agent to help you sort out which classifications you can register your trademark.

MUSA Trademark can assist you in researching and filing trademarks in Taiwan, China and around the world. Read about our case studies here and learn more about how we help our clients. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to use the contact form below.

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