Are you curious to explore the topic ‘copyright infringement vs patent infringement’?

In the ever-evolving realm of intellectual property, two terms often leave many puzzled—Copyright Infringement and Patent Infringement.

Both serve as integral pillars for fostering creativity, safeguarding innovations, and promoting economic growth.

But they cater to different facets of intellectual property rights, protect distinct types of work, and carry distinct implications when breached.

In this illuminating journey, we will walk through the labyrinth of intellectual property law, disentangling the complexities, and elucidating the critical differences between copyright and patent infringement.

This blog post aims to provide a thorough understanding of the subject matter to creative individuals, inventors, entrepreneurs, and anyone interested in the mechanisms that protect their ideas, designs, or innovations.

What is Copyright Infringement?

When someone violates the rights of the content owners, it is considered as the copyright violation.

The exclusive rights are provided by the copyright law.

Copyright protects original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium.

These can be literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other types of intellectual works.

Examples include books, paintings, photographs, software code, music compositions, films, and architectural designs.

Infringement occurs when a person who is not the copyright owner (and does not have permission from the owner) carries out one of these exclusive rights.

When it comes to copyright violation of owner’s exclusive rights, it is defined as using a work without permission. Hence, it is a copyright violation.

Similarly, using a photograph in an online article without obtaining the necessary permissions can also be an infringement.

However, unauthorised reproduction or distribution of copyrighted material, particularly for commercial purposes, commonly constitutes infringement.

There is also an another nuance in the copyright infringement case. For instance, there is an exception and limitation in the copyright infringement case.

The exception is also known as the ‘Fair Use’ in the copyright infringement cases.

In essence, copyright infringement can be viewed as theft, stealing not physical items but the creative efforts and potential earnings of the copyright holder.

Understanding and respecting copyright law is thus not just a legal necessity, but also an ethical imperative, fostering creativity and innovation in society.

Further Reading: What is Copyright Piracy

What is the Process for Copyright Registration?

Copyright registration is comparably less complex than the patent registration.

Create Your Work: Copyright protection exists from the moment your work is created in a tangible form.

There are different forms of work that can be subjected to the copyright violation. For instance, movie, software, art, photograph etc.

Prepare Your Application: You’ll need to prepare an application to register your copyright.

Here are the important information to include in your application: Title, author’s name and the creation year.

File Your Application: This can be done online through the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) system, which is cheaper, faster, and allows for online tracking of the application status.

Alternatively, you can mail a paper form.

Submit a Copy of Your Work: Along with your application, you will need to submit a non-returnable copy or copies of the work being registered.

The specifics of what you need to send vary depending on the type of work you are registering.

Pay the Registration Fee: There is a fee to register a copyright.

The registration fee for the copyright will vary based on the application and how it is filed.

Await Confirmation: After your application, copy of the work, and payment are received, the U.S. Copyright Office will examine your application.

If everything is in order, they will register your copyright and send you a certificate of registration.

Further Reading: How to Retain Copyright

What is Patent Infringement?

Patent infringement is a violation of the exclusive rights granted to the patent holder by law over their invention.

Patents are the copyright protection for the inventions. This will eliminate the rights for others to use, sell or make a copy of the invention.

Inventions protected by patents can be a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof.

Patents are often associated with tangible products, innovative technologies, and complex chemical compounds, among other things.

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Infringement occurs when a person or entity engages in activities that are exclusively reserved for the patent owner without obtaining permission.

Patent infringement also happens when someone uses or makes copies of the invention that is quite similar to the original one.

Even though the infringer is not aware about the owner’s consent or patent’s existence, this will also constitute copyright infringement.

Patent search or consulting a legal professional before producing a product is an ideal way to avoid the patent infringement.

Legal consequences for patent infringement can be severe, often involving significant financial penalties and sometimes the necessity to stop production or sales of the infringing product or service.

Therefore, understanding and respecting patent laws is crucial for anyone engaged in creating or commercialising new inventions.

What is the Process for Patent Application?

The procedure for submitting a patent application can be difficult and differs from nation to nation.

But often, it goes through a sequence of processes that demand close attention and precise planning.

Conceptualise Your Invention: Applying for patent involves several procedures. Detailed description of the invention and its functionality.

The practical concept of invention is essential to register your patent.

Research and Preliminary Patent Search: You should conduct a preliminary patent search to see if your invention is novel (new) and non-obvious.

This will help ensure that your invention hasn’t already been patented or disclosed in a publication.

Utilise databases like the USPTO’s Patent Full-Text and Image Database (PatFT), Google Patents, and others.

Prepare Your Application: If your invention appears to be novel and non-obvious, you can proceed to the patent application stage.

The application should include a detailed description of the invention, claims that define the scope of the protection sought, and often drawings to illustrate the invention.

File Your Application with the USPTO: There are two types of patent applications you can file initially:

Provisional Application: This provides a way to establish an early effective filing date in a patent application and allows the term “Patent Pending” to be applied. It lasts for 12 months and isn’t examined.

Non-provisional Application: This is the formal application that initiates the examination process at the USPTO.

USPTO Examination: After you’ve filed your non-provisional patent application, a patent examiner at the USPTO reviews it.

The examiner checks whether your invention meets all the patentability requirements, including novelty, non-obviousness, and usefulness.

Respond to Office Actions: During the examination process, the examiner may issue “Office Actions” that raise questions or objections about your application.

You (or your patent attorney) will need to respond to these office actions within a specific period.

Notice of Allowance: If your application satisfies all patentability requirements, the USPTO will issue a Notice of Allowance indicating that a patent will be granted upon payment of the required government fees.

Issuance of Patent: Once the issuance fee is paid, the USPTO will grant the patent, giving you exclusive rights to the invention for a certain period (typically 20 years from the filing date for utility patents).

Further Reading: Copyright Issues in Digital Library

How Patent Protection Safeguards Your Work?

Patent protection plays a vital role in safeguarding inventors’ rights over their novel and useful inventions.

Here’s how patent protection works to secure your work:

Exclusivity: The central feature of patent protection is the exclusive right it provides.

When it comes to the exclusive rights, patent holders will have all the above rights.

This exclusivity typically lasts for 20 years from the filing date of the patent application, allowing you to profit from your invention without worry of direct competition copying your idea.

Legal Recourse: Owning a patent gives you the right to take legal action against others who manufacture, sell, or use your invention without your permission – this is what is known as patent infringement.

Courts can enforce patents by ordering an infringer to stop their activities and pay damages.

Licensing and Assignment: Patents can be licensed or assigned.

As the patent holder, you can license your patent rights to others, typically in exchange for royalty payments.

This allows you to profit from your invention without having to manufacture or market the product yourself.

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Alternatively, you can assign (sell) your patent to another party.

Attracting Investment: Patents can significantly increase the value of a business and attract investors or potential buyers.

They demonstrate that a business has a degree of innovation and unique products or services that are protected from direct competition.

Promotes Innovation and Public Disclosure: The patent system is designed to promote innovation by providing inventors with exclusive rights, while also encouraging the public disclosure of technological information.

Once a patent expires, others can build upon the disclosed invention, fostering further innovation and advancement.

By granting inventors exclusive rights over their inventions, patents incentivise creativity, stimulate innovation, and contribute to technological advancement.

As such, they serve as a critical tool for individuals and companies seeking to benefit from their research and development efforts.

How Copyright Protection Safeguards Your Work?

Copyright protection is a critical mechanism that helps creators safeguard their original works of authorship. Here’s how copyright protection works to secure your work:

Exclusive Rights: Copyright law provides you with a bundle of exclusive rights over your work.

Legal Recourse: If someone infringes on your copyright — that is, if they exercise one of these exclusive rights without your permission — you have the right to take legal action against them.

You can seek remedies such as injunctions (orders to stop the infringing activity), impounding and disposal of infringing articles, and monetary damages.

Moral Rights: In some jurisdictions, copyright law also provides for “moral rights,” which allow creators to protect their personal and reputational connection with the work.

These can include the right to be identified as the author of the work and the right to object to distortions or mutilations of the work that could be prejudicial to the author’s honor or reputation.

Licensing and Assignment: Copyrights can be licensed or transferred, which allows you to make money from your work without having to be the one who performs it, displays it, or sells copies of it.

For instance, a novelist might sell the film rights to their book to a movie studio, or a musician might license a song to be used in a commercial.

Economic Benefits: Copyright encourages the development of culture, science, and innovation, while providing a potential financial benefit to copyright holders.

This dual benefit can stimulate economic growth and contribute to job creation.

Remember, copyright protection is automatic once the work is fixed in a tangible form, and while registering a copyright isn’t necessary for protection, it can offer additional legal advantages.

The purpose of copyright is to strike a balance between the interests of artists.

These artists who ought to be compensated for their toil and creativity, and those of the general public.

Copyright Infringement vs Patent Infringement: Major Differences

While both patent and copyright infringement relate to the unauthorised use of protected intellectual property, they differ in many significant aspects due to the nature of the rights they protect and the legal structures surrounding them.

1. Type of Work Protected

Patent infringement involves unauthorised use of patented inventions.

These inventions can be a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof.

Copyright infringement, on the other hand, relates to unauthorised use of original works of authorship.

This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works such as books, music, films, paintings, and software.

2. Exclusive Rights

Patent rights are more expansive in that they grant the holder the exclusive right to make, use, sell, offer to sell, or import the patented invention.

Copyright grants the holder exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or make derivatives of the original work.

3. Infringement Determination

Determining patent infringement generally involves a technical analysis to see if the accused product or process involves each and every element of at least one claim of the patent.

In contrast, copyright infringement usually involves an analysis of whether the accused work is substantially similar to the protected work and whether the accused had access to the original work.

4. Doctrine of Fair Use

The doctrine of fair use, which allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the owner, applies to copyright law but not to patent law.

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The use of a patented invention, even for non-commercial or educational purposes, can constitute patent infringement.

5. Duration of Protection

Patents typically have a set term, usually 20 years from the date of filing the patent application, after which the patented invention falls into the public domain.

Copyright protection, on the other hand, lasts much longer. For works created by an individual, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.

For works made for hire, the duration of copyright is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

Related Article: Duration of copyright in India

6. Registration

Patents must be granted by the USPTO before any protection is conferred. The process of obtaining a patent can be lengthy and expensive.

Copyright protection is automatic upon the creation of a work, and while registration is not required for copyright protection, it can provide additional legal benefits.

Understanding these differences can help innovators, creators, and businesses make informed decisions about how best to protect and leverage their intellectual property.

Further Reading: Search Engine Copyright Infringement


In conclusion, while copyright infringement and patent infringement both represent violations of the exclusive rights granted to creators and inventors by law.

They protect fundamentally different types of intellectual property and function within unique legal frameworks.

Patent infringement primarily deals with inventions and useful improvements thereof, providing patent holders with the exclusive right to manufacture, use, sell, or import their patented inventions.

This protects the significant time, effort, and resources often invested in technological innovation.

Are you scared of copyright and piracy issues? Book a demo with experts to discuss your issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can something be both copyrighted and patented?

Yes, in some cases, an item can be protected by both copyright and patent law, but they would protect different aspects of the item.

For instance, a new type of software could be patented to protect the novel functionality it introduces, while the code itself could be copyrighted as a unique piece of authorship.

However, these protections are distinct and must be sought separately.

How long do copyrights and patents last?

The term of protection for patents and copyrights differs significantly.

A patent usually lasts for 20 years from the date of filing, after which the patented invention becomes public domain.
A copyright, however, lasts much longer.

For works created by an individual, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author, plus an additional 70 years.

For works made for hire, the duration of copyright is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

What are the penalties for copyright infringement and patent infringement?

The penalties for both copyright and patent infringement can be severe.

They can include significant financial damages that compensate the owner for lost profits due to the infringement, and in some cases, can also include additional damages as determined by a court.

For copyright infringement, statutory damages can range from $750 to $30,000 per work infringed, or up to $150,000 per work for willful infringement.

For patent infringement, damages are usually at least reasonable royalty damages, but can be up to three times the actual damages in cases of willful infringement.

How can I avoid copyright or patent infringement?

To avoid infringement, it’s crucial to do your due diligence before creating a product, publishing a work, or starting a business.

This includes conducting thorough patent and copyright searches to ensure that you’re not infringing on anyone else’s rights.

If there’s any doubt, consulting with an intellectual property attorney is highly recommended.

Respecting others’ intellectual property rights is not only a legal obligation but also an ethical one, fostering a culture that respects and encourages innovation and creativity.