Do you know what a patent is? Really? See these headlines: "Law protects cupuaçu patent"; "Brazil regains açaí patent"; "Is it possible to patent a fruit?"; "Trump patented its 2020 slogan: 'Make America Great'; "Coca-Cola can´t patent it new bottle"; "More companies are trying to patent #hashtags" or "Nestlé tries to patent Kit Kat format - and can´t".
What all those headlines have in common?
In all of them, the concept of trademarks and patents has been mixed up!
Trademarks and patents are not the same thing! Nor can we patent a trademark... Trademark is one stuff; patents, another!
Both trademarks and patents are protections the Government gives against copies. In this point, they are similar. Copyrights, those of composers, singers, movies, CDs, are also a kind of protection given by Government that refrains others to copy what has been created. All those together are konwn as intellectual property. It´s that inside notion that we own what our mind creates. When these creations are artistic, they are called copyright; whenever they are useful in the industry, they are called industrial property. That´s why patents and trademarks are always together: both are to be used in any kind of industry: a soft drink manufacturer, a car or airplane company, even the agro-industry.
So, what´s the difference? Trademark is a name, or maybe a drawing or a 3D form. It´s a kind of sign that allows us to differ one product or service from another. It may be the name of an enterprise, or the name of a product or a service that this enterprise sells. We have a lot of examples: Coca-cola, Nike, Monsanto, Itaú, Apple, iphone... these words once meant nothing or had a completely different meaning - Nike, for instance, was, originally, the name of a Greek Goddess. Monsanto is a place in Portugal - nowadays, it brings us a very real image of a company, a product or a service. It´s not a surprise that these trademarks are worth a fortune!
Patents, on the other hand, are a protection for ideas, right?
Intellectual property as a whole is protection for ideas! Or you are going to say that a trademark has not arrived from an idea? Or a ballet choreography, like that of the The nut cracker? Isn´t it?
Thus, what are patents?
Patents are protections for an idea that solves a technological problem. That is, patents are always for technological inventions!
When Thomas Edison invented the lamp, he solved a huge problem! Imagine how it was the life with oil sconces and torches! Or when decided to invent a container! Do you have any idea how it was laborious to load and unload a ship? We could keep for hours listing... airplane, cell phone, sewing machine, bar code, photo camera, transgenic plants... the press, the rubber tire,vaccines, antibiotics, microscope...So, now you know: patent is always for technology!
When someone tells you that they have patented açaí in Japan, remember: açaí is not a technological invention! That is, ir has nothing to do with patents! But, what happened there? Can you guess? A company tried to register açaí as a trademark to sell..açaí! As I told you before, a trademark must distinguish one product from others. I can´t register the trademark Apple to sell apples; but for computers, there is no problem! That´s why the process was reversed: they told the Japanese Government that açaí ment...well...açaí! If thery had applied the trademark açaí for computer, we would have another story!
In synthesis, a trademark is a distinctive sign, a name, a logo; a patent is temporary monopoly for technological solutions.
Thus, never say you are patenting your trademark anymore. Or patent your idea, in general! No, no! You want to patent your technological invention! Right?