Copyright v Patents

What is Copyright?

Copyright protects all original literary and artistic works, including computer programs, sound recordings, films and music.

What are Patents?

Patents protect inventions. A patent may be granted for a device, a product, a substance, a process or computer hardware and software and even some business methods – in essence, almost anything commercially useful.

What are the Important Differences between Copyright and Patents?

  1. Copyright and patents relate to different subject matter. There is a huge range of material that attracts copyright protection – from books to photographs, paintings, films, sound recordings, TV broadcasts and even buildings. When granted, a patent will give you exclusive commercial rights to your invention. Patents are granted for inventions that are products as well as processes.
  2. Copyright and patents have different application processes. There is no registration procedure for copyright. Creators automatically are the owners of copyright in relation to the work they create. Whereas a patent must be registered in order to obtain protection. Patents are granted by regulatory bodies in response to formal applications.
  3. Copyright and patents have different requirements for legal protection. Copyright arises automatically upon the creation of an original work. To be registered, a patent must satisfy the requirements of being new, having an inventive step and having utility.
  4. Copyright and patents provide different exclusive legal rights. Copyright prevents others from copying or selling the work, among other exclusive rights. For patents, where the patented invention is a product, the exclusive rights of the patent owner are to make, use and sell that product. Where the patented invention is a process, the exclusive rights of the patent owner are to use the process, and to use and sell a product obtained directly by that process.
  5. Copyright and patents last for different periods of time. Copyright generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, in Australia, a patent is granted for an initial period of 5 years. Thereafter, the patent owner must pay annual renewal fees to maintain the patent. A patent has a maximum duration of 20 years (or, in the case of pharmaceuticals, 25 years), counted from the date of filing the application for the patent.

Key Takeaway

Copyright and patents are both important forms of intellectual property. However, as shown above, they have various differences. The most important difference is that copyright arises automatically upon the creation of the work. Unlike patents, it is not necessary for the work to be registered with a regulatory authority for protection to arise.

To speak to a lawyer about copyright and patents, call Vault Legal today on 1300 002 212 or email us at

Key words: copyright, patents, intellectual property, works, inventions, products and processes.