Ken Thayer Podcast with guest Renee Duff (1)

What’s the difference between trademarks, copyrights and patents? Attorney Renee Duff Explains


In this week’s episode of Attorney Talk, Ken Thayer interviews Renee Duff, who is an attorney with more than twenty-five years experience managing intellectual property assets for businesses, law firms, and in-house perspectives. Renee is a graduate of Providence College and is also a graduate of St. Thomas School of Law. She has her own private practice, Renee Duff PC, and caters her needs to entrepreneurs and small businesses that have intellectual property assets as the main focus of their business. In her work for Lachenback and Siegel, she focuses on US trademark prosecuting and title security interest issues in US custom matters. During the show, Ken and Renee discuss copyright, trademarks, technology, and common client issues.

Main Questions Asked:

  • What does it mean to be an intellectual property attorney?
  • What is the difference between trademarks and copyrights?
  • Do small businesses have trademark and copyright rights to be aware of?
  • What are the advantages of going to an attorney instead of an online law services?
  • How does one get protection from song stealing?
  • Are there time limits on trademark or copyrights?
  • How does digital and technology help in your business?
  • What are the questions or issues perspective clients should have ready to go with potential copyright or trademarks?

Key Lessons Learned:

Intellectual Property

  • Intellectual property covers trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets.
  • Most businesses have trademarks and copyrights that can be used to layer the protection as each one provides different ways to defend against infringements.


  • Copyright is putting down an expression into a tangible form. E.g. a book, movie, or screenplay.
  • Under the law, copyright is attached to a project as soon as it is created. E.g. a song.
  • The benefit of registering a copyright is that it is a cheap insurance policy to defend the copyright, as you need the registration to get into federal court.
  • Copyright isn’t enforceable in court until you have the certificate.
  • Mailing creative work to yourself doesn’t provide you with copyright. It still needs to be filed with the copyright office in order to receive protection.
  • Copyright lasts for a long time but will eventually expire depending on the type and the rights. It is usually the life of the author.
  • Copyrights can be registered in a number of different ways such as via the authors or a holding company.


  • Trademarks are your brands and designator of the source of your goods and services. E.g. Starbucks or McDonalds.
  • Trademark rights are based on ‘use’ and can last indefinitely as long as you use them.
  • You need to pay to renew your trademark registration.
  • Trademarks have become important to businesses in the past five years due to the explosion of social media platforms.
  • If someone has a social media account and is using your brand name, and you have a registered trademark, then it is easy to shut down infringers.
  • Online services are often only document filing providers and don’t provide legal advice on the best way to structure applications.
  • It is possible to go to the trademark website and file a trademark application; however, there are things you need to know before filing.
  • The common mistake people make when filing a trademark application themselves is that they are providing too much information, which turns a simple application into a refusal.


  • Technology allows business owners to create systems and methods to compete in ways that have not been possible for solo practitioners.
  • Entrepreneurs expect to be able to interact in the same way with attorneys that they deal with any other vendor or service provider. Legal services are expected to be delivered in a virtual manner.
  • The easier and more streamlined you can make services through technology, the happier the clients are.

Common Client Issues

  • Before you create a new product or name a service and spend money, ensure you search for any potential conflict.

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Links to Resources Mentioned

Renee Duff
Lackenbach & Siegel

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Are you across copyright and trademark? Get the insider lawyer info w/ Renee Duff & Ken Thayer @gaylordpoppllc

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