A copyright is a right that the government gives an author of an original work of expression to prohibit others from copying or commercially using the work of expression without proper permission. To attain a copyright, the work has to be original. A copyright cannot cover any system, method, process, concept, principle, or device, although it can cover a specific explanation or description of anything. The copyright comes to life when the work of expression first assumes some tangible form, and lasts until it expires by law.
The process involved in registering a copyright notably differs from that of obtaining a patent. A copyright exists automatically upon conception of the work, with no registration being necessary. On the other hand, to obtain patent rights, an application must be filed with the PTO, and that office must review, approve, and issue a patent. If a copyright is registered with the Copyright Office on any copyrightable material, a certificate of registration will be granted without any significant examination as to the workís novelty. The PTO, on the other hand, makes a strict and thorough novelty and un-obviousness examination on all patent applications and wonít grant a patent unless it considers the invention novel and unobvious. A patent can provide offensive rights on an idea if it is converted to hardware form but a copyright covers only the authorís or artistís way of expressing an idea. For example a copyright and can provide offensive rights on a particular arrangement of words that comprise a book or play, however not the subject matter, message, or teachings of the book. Patents can be registered in foreign countries, last for 20 years and are renewable. However if the patent expires, the exclusive rights to make, use, sell or import the invention or discovery is lost. Copyrights on the other hand last for the life of the author plus 50 years. Things that are entitled to a patent are generally not entitled to a copyright, and vice versa.
For obtaining a patent or copyright and for properly filing an intellectual property, consult with a qualified patent attorney or a copyright lawyer. A patent attorney can assure that everyone's legal rights are protected under intellectual property law.