What is the difference between a trademark, a patent and a copyright?

With one of these, you could be earning a lot of money. I discovered how important they are while designing Fill in the Black. Here's the answer...

My People,

In the last few weeks, our game - Fill in the Black - has been featured on international news like Reuters, SBS Australia, France 24 and Aljazeera. We’ve even had companies like Tik Tok (UK) and Celebrations order the game for their customers. The game is a box of cards that you can play with friends and family by trying to describe or act out a word without using any of the ‘buzz’ words listed underneath. What’s special about Fill in the Black is how it references and celebrates black people, places and cultures from around the world. It truly is fun and the perfect gift for the holidays. We’ve seen lots of successes with the game (thanks to you) and in order to answer a very common question, I would like to share something I learned while designing this game - what is the difference between a trademark, a patent and a copyright?

You ready? A trademark, patent or copyright is protection for your intellectual property. All three categories ensure that the work of your mind is protected from unfair use by anyone else and allows you earn when others make use of your brain work. Here’s insight into definitions and the major distinction among all three:

A trademark is a word, phrase, design or symbol that distinguishes a product or service (service mark). Many companies have trademarks for their brand names, logos, taglines and even catch phrases. It ensures that no one else profits off your brand identity. That’s why you may have noticed the symbol ® when a mark is registered or TM or SM when it is not registered but has been in use by the owner for some time. Trademarks could last forever as long as you pay the required fees from time to time and continue to use the mark that was registered.

A patent is protection for your invention. If you created a new design, composition, combination or process that has never been done before, a patent license is what you’re looking for. There are two kinds of patents:

  • Design patent - this registers the design or structure of an invention.

  • Utility patent - this registers the usage or functionality of an invention.

If you created an original piece of literary, musical, artistic or dramatical work that classifies you as an author, what you’re looking for is a copyright. When you think of copyright, think of a book, a play, a computer software or even architectural pieces.

  • Lasts for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years (if it is created by an individual)

  • Last for between 95 and 120 years (if created by an anonymous or hired person)

Note: Coca Cola has a design patent for their bottles, a utility patent for their formula and a trademark for their logo / name.

Most people have heard of all three terms but most people use them interchangeably and possibly wrongly. But it is important to know what the differences are so that you can make informed choices and even identify when it is necessary to apply for one yourself. Apart from the cool factor of having your own registered trademark or patent, the success of your business could actually depend on one or more of these. If you watch Shark Tank, you may have seen investors pull out of investments because they realized that a cool product was not patented and so in practice, anyone could simply replicate it. You could have created something that could earn you and your generations a lot of money and put you in the 0.05% of people who filed for patents in the year 2019. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, there were 3.3 million patent applications in 2019 and 14.3 million trademark application in the same year.

There’s a whole lot more about different countries and what they require for each of these registrations. In fact, some programs even allow you register in multiple companies at a time. There’s also a list of requirements you have to meet to successfully apply for either a trademark, patent or copyright. And they take quite some time.

So, we applied for one of these for the game FILL IN THE BLACK; a decision that has served us incredibly as we distribute the game to the world. Based on the explanations above, I would like to hear from you:

  1. Can you guess which one we applied for?

  2. Is there something you’re sitting on that you probably need to apply for? Let me know (you can provide just a general description, nothing too detailed) and I could put you in touch with lawyers to get started. You could be sitting on a bag of gold.

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Have you got a copy of the game? If you live in Nigeria, the game is available here and if you live in the US, UK or Canada, the game is available here. There is FREE SHIPPING in all four countries.

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