Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Copyright and Patent

Copyright vs Patent

We all know that both, ‘copyright’ and ‘patent’ are meant to protect the rights of creators and inventors, to their intellectual properties. Their similarity stops there, as they are distinct from each other in terms of their functions and principles.

One difference that they have is on the subject of their coverage. A copyright covers the right of the creator, over works of artistic nature as in songs, books, films, maps, photographs, paintings, and computer programs, to name a few.  It also gives the copyright holder exclusive rights to their copy, distribution, and adaptation.  A patent covers an invention, like a device or method that is new and useful and prevents other people from copying, using, selling or distributing these inventions.

The copyright protection of a creation starts the moment it is created and lasts for the creator’s lifetime plus 50-70 years.  An invention is protected only after the patent has been issued and lasts from 10-20 years depending on the country’s laws.  Both the copyright and the patent can be renewed and both can be transferred to another person.

In the case of a copyright, it can only be transferred after the creator’s death. A patent can be transferred or sold to another by the inventor, provided the patent has not expired yet.  After the patent or copyright has expired, the inventions or creations are moved into the public domain and can be used freely by anyone wishing to do so.  In the case of a copyright, this happens if the creator is already dead.

Violation or infringement of a copyright happens when the work itself is copied, but a copyright allows the use of a portion or portions of a copyrighted work by another person, as long as the use is acknowledged and meets the criteria for fair use.  A patented work, on the other hand cannot be made, used, or sold without the permission of the patent holder.  In the case of patent infringement, the patent holder must be paid damages.

Another difference between the two is that, a copyright is cheaper, requires less paperwork, and is less time consuming than a patent.  Applying for a patent is more complicated and would require the services of a lawyer to process the paperwork, making it cost more.  There are several other fees that one has to pay at the patenting office and a search must be made for other patents filed for a similar invention.


  1. A copyright is applied for literary and artistic works, while a patent is applied for new and useful inventions.
  2. A copyrighted work is protected right after its creation, while an invention will be protected only after the patent is issued.
  3. Parts of a copyrighted work can be used by another person, provided it is acknowledged, while a patented work cannot not be made or sold by another, without permission from the patent holder.
  4. A copyright costs less than a patent and is easier to acquire.
  5. A copyright expires after the creator or author’s death, while a patent will expire 10-20 years after it is issued.

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