Patent – a government grant conferring rights to an invention (varies by country, typically the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention).  To receive the patent, the invention must be new and not obvious.

Trademark – a symbol and/or word(s) that a business uses to represent its goods and/or services.

Registered Trademark – a government grant conferring exclusive rights to use a trademark in respect of certain goods and services.

Unregistered trademark – (aka common-law trademark) a trademark that is not registered but may be protected under the common law.

Copyright – a government grant conferring rights in creative works (such as music or written materials, and includes software). A copyright grants many rights, but broadly allows the owner to control the making of copies of the creative work.

License – when an owner of a right grants someone else permission to use the right – i.e. a patent license, a trademark license, a copyright license.

Search – a search of databases for a specific purpose:

  • Trademark availability search – a search of the government trademarks database, and other relevant databases, to assess whether an application for a trademark is likely to issue, and/or whether adopting a trademark has a higher than normal risk of another company objecting (i.e. already exists, or is like a trademark that already exists).
  • Patentability search – a search of government databases, and other relevant databases, to assess whether a patent application for an invention is likely to issue and help the patent drafter draft a better application.
  • Clearance search – a search of government databases to assess whether a product that a company plans to sell will infringe on someone else’s patent(s).
  • Invalidity search – a search of government databases, and other relevant databases, to try to find pre-existing information that would invalidate a patent.

Provisional application – a patent application filed in the US Patent and Trademark office that does not have any formal requirement s (i.e. it can be a PowerPoint presentation, or working notes, or the draft of a journal article).

This serves as proof that the applicant is claiming that information in the provisional document on that date; it does not mature into an issued Patent unless the applicant files a regular non-provisional patent application within one year.

Non-provisional application – a formal application establishes an invention’s filing date (unless it claims the benefit of an earlier filed application). Filing a non-provisional application starts the official examination process to determine if the invention is patentable.  This serves as a formal patent application.

PCT application – The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is an intentional patent law treaty. Giving the applicant the option to file patent applications in approx. 156 countries 30 months after the earliest application of the invention was filed. This allows the applicant to defer investing in national patent applications, and to gather information about the viability of the business and/or idea before investing in national patent applications.

Office actions – An official letter from an intellectual property office responding to the trademark or patent application, usually either an acceptance of the application, or describes objections the office has to the application. It also sets out the deadline to respond.

Notice of allowance or allowance – A type of office action notifying the applicant that their patent or trademark application has been allowed.

Acceleration – intellectual property offices are often slow in examining applications or responding to submissions by the applicant.   The examination of the application can be accelerated, either by paying a fee or if ones qualifies under certain conditions.

Translation – In some countries, the applicant will have to pay for the patent application to be translated into the domestic language, and will have to pay for the translation of all communications with the intellectual property office.

Prosecution – the process of a lawyer or lawyers negotiating with an intellectual property office, typically over whether a trademark or patent will be granted or about the scope of the trademark or patent protection that will be granted.