Difference Between Copyright and Patent

People often confuse the terms “copyright” and “patent” when talking about the laws which protect an individual’s innovation. These two terms are often used interchangeably but are governed by two completely different laws under the same umbrella.


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Copyright vs Patent

The difference between copyright and patent is that copyright has guidelines on how the work can be regenerated. In contrast, the patent makes the work “patented” and stops other people from using it in any form whatsoever. The “copyright” and “patent” laws come under intellectual property laws. The laws have different but almost the same definitions and durations respective to each country.

Copyright vs Patent

The main reason for the confusion arises from the common root to which both the terms “copyright” and “patent” belong to- intellectual property. Intellectual property is any work that is unique enough to be protected by the law.

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonCopyrightPatent
DefinitionCopyright laws protect the idea or expression of the work, such as any artists’ work.Patent laws protect innovation.
DurationCopyright laws last for up to 50 or 70 years after the death of the original author of the “copyrighted” work. At the end of copyright protection, the work is in the public domain and can be used in any form by anyone without any permission or fee.Patent laws usually last up to 20 years, but the duration is subject to the patent issued in the respective country. After the lapse of the duration of the patent, anybody can copy the patent.
UsageCopyright laws protect the expression of ideas. This can be in any form, such as computer programs, music composition, and literature, to name a few.Patent laws provide a market monopoly for the invention while also protecting the idea of driving it.
ProtectionSpecial innovations, discoveries, recorded or written work, paintings, designs, and other ideas or creations.Various big and small processes of agriculture, medicine, and chemical industries, to name a few.

What is Copyright?

Copyright laws are used to protect the expression of ideas, usually of artists like book authors, painters, chefs, etc. The protection of the expression is specified in the guidelines.

Guidelines need to be taken into account while copying a substantial part of the original work and publishing it. Copyright laws do not protect the process involved in the making of the copyrighted work.

Copyright laws have moral and economic rights. Economic rights are the rights to copy the work or publish a substantial part of the work.

Moral rights talk about how does the adapted work from the copyrighted work does justice to the original copyright. It also consists of the moral right to be listed as an author for the adapted work.

Fair use is an exclusion of the rights provided by the copyright. In this, people can copy a very small amount of work to cite in research or review reports.

Cookbooks are a great example to establish clear differences between the idea and expression of an idea. A Cookbook is an expression of ideas (expression of recipes), and they cannot be reprinted.

People follow the recipes and mimic the expression of ideas contained in the cookbook. If the recipes were patented, people could not replicate the recipes without prior authorization of the patent owner.


What is Patent?

Patent laws are stricter when it comes to the protection of ideas. Patent laws stop the usage of the idea in any form. It cannot be regenerated based on the same idea behind the already existing patent.

This stops the patent from any infringement and also secures the monopoly for the idea in the global economic market.

Patents can be used by other people under the Patent License. Under this license, anyone who wishes to use the patent must pay money to the owner of the patent.

Patents usually cover technical processes or products which are considered unexampled. Patents cover most industries like electronics, transport, medicine, and agriculture. Anything can be patented from a small nut to an entire powerhouse.

To patent any invention it should satisfy the following:

  1. It must be new, original, and not very obvious.
  2. An innovative step must be there.
  3. It must be useful for application in any industry.

Main Differences Between Copyright and Patent

  1. Copyright law protects literary, dramatic, musical, and other similar artistic creations, whereas patent laws stress on protecting inventions.
  2. There is no need to register copyright because it comes into existence with its creation. Patents need to be registered by a national or international patent organization before they can be protected by the laws that govern it.
  3. The practice of the idea is the main objective of the patent. On the other hand, it’s the expression of the idea which is focused on the copyright end.
  4. Copyrights are the special rights given to the creator of the original work, which dismisses the performance and production of the work. Patents are legal grants given by the government to stop the manufacture and trading of the invention for a set duration of time.
  5. Copyright is usually granted for 50-70 years after the death of the original creator of the copyright. However, a patent which is valid to the author for 20 years.
Difference Between Copyright and Patent


  1. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Robert_Merges/publication/228134478_The_Proper_Scope_of_the_Copyright_and_Patent_Power/links/542c3b740cf277d58e8c5173/The-Proper-Scope-of-the-Copyright-and-Patent-Power.pdf
  2. https://jolt.law.harvard.edu/assets/articlePDFs/v05/05HarvJLTech145.pdf
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