How do I know if I am infringing on a Copyright or Patent?


Im looking to create a small start up at home making bicycle accessories but I have no clue if I would be infringing on any copyright and or patents in doing so.

How Do I know if my Company name is infringing on a copyright?
How Do I know if my product name is infringing on a copyright?
How Do I know if my design is infringing on a patent?

The Legal issues of a start up are very confusing me. Are there people to contact that straighten these type of things out?

This start up business will not be on Forbes but I hope to end up making enough to Live off of and want to do things smart while I can.

Patent Copyright

asked Dec 27 '12 at 12:39
31 points

2 Answers


For company name and product name, the term is Trademark but not copyright.

A basic rule of thumb is, if the name is not used by a famous company/person/product, and it is not used by any one in your industry, you are almost safe to go. You can check trademark availability here: (Click "trademark search" on top left column).

The page also has many good resources, and claim you can get basic understanding by yourself after reading them.

For patent, that's beyond my knowledge. You can use Google Patent and USPTO to search similar patent and check if there is any infringement. I think you should generally be okay if the idea is generated by you originally, but do your homework anyway. Also you may consider register the patent if that is your main competitive advantage. Please consult lawyer for serious consideration.

For basic startup knowledge you can check Zuly's reply on this question: Can you recommend one (or two) book(s) that will explain the process of creating a startup with three cofounders?. She listed many good books and resources.

answered Dec 28 '12 at 01:29
Billy Chan
1,179 points


Some basics:

Copyright: Protects "works of authorship". Examples: Books, movies, sculptures, music. Does not protect short words and phrases.

Patents: Protects Useful inventions, methods and processes.

Design Patents: Protects ornamental (non-functional) design on a useful item

Trademarks: Protects a name or device used to indicate the origin of a product or service.

So, in answer to your questions:

  1. People to help straighten out these issues? Yes. Go see a business attorney who specializes in working with startup companies. For a few hundred dollars, you'll get your understanding straightened out and some good advice about how to proceed forward.
  2. How do you know your company name is not infringing a copyright? It's not. Names are not copyrightable.
  3. Product name infringing on a copyright? Same answer. You might have to worry about trademark infringement, though. For that, see my answer to #1, above.
  4. Design is infringing on a patent? Easiest way is to hire a patent attorney to do a search for you. But, see my answer to #1 above, first.
answered Dec 28 '12 at 01:46
Chris Fulmer
2,849 points

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