A patent is a limited duration property right given to the creator of an invention. In exchange, the invention is publicly disclosed. In essence, the holder has a monopoly on the invention for the period of time the patent is granted. Four categories of items that can be patented include machines, chemicals, manufactured products, and industrial processes. Patent types include Utility, Design, and Plant.
A trademark uses words, symbols, or phrases to indicate the goods and services. A service mark is similar, except that the words, symbols, or phrases identify the source of the goods or services rather than the goods or services themselves.
Copyright protects written, musical, artistic, computerized, and architectural works for a period of time, giving the creator a monopoly over the work for the duration of the copyright period. After this period, the work moves into the public domain, becoming available to all. Copyright is granted automatically upon creation, but registration of work(s) can be beneficial to copyright holders in case of legal disputes.
The copyright duration is typically the life of the author plus 70 years. In the case of works for hire, anonymous works, or pseudonymous work, copyright lasts 95 years from the publication date, or 120 years from the creation date, whichever happens to be shorter.