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FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America: Ask-A-Desi

This section will attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Life in the US, Canada and North America that immigrants, visitors and others from different cultures attempt to address. If you have any additional inputs or wish  to see more topics addressed, mail us at

Some people confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection, they are different and serve different purposes.


Patent, Trademark, Copyright. IPR: Intellectual Property Rights

What is a Patent?

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office. The term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. US patent grants are effective only within the US, US territories, and US possessions.

The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.

What is a Trademark TM and Servicemark SM ?
Dish Network logo with TM mark

A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device which is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. See the example: This particular design with the words “dish NETWROK” and TM superscript is the Trademark of Dish Network. (Btw, Sun TV is newly added channel to the Dish Network in US recently).

A servicemark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. The terms "trademark" and "mark" are commonly used to refer to both trademarks and servicemarks. Cingular wireless, since is a service-oriented company, has SM superscript in its logo.

Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark. Trademarks which are used in interstate or foreign commerce may be registered with the Patent and Trademark Office.

Cingular logo with SM mark
UPS logo with R symbol

Why are some logos and brand names followed by the ® symbol?

The ® indicates that the trademark is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The ™ symbol may be used when trademark rights are claimed in relation to a mark, but the mark has not been registered with the government trademarks office of a particular country or jurisdiction, while the ® is used to indicate that the mark has been so registered. It is not mandatory to use either symbol, although the force of convention is such that the symbols are widely used around the world. However, in various jurisdictions it is unlawful to use the ® symbol in association with a mark when that mark is not registered. Either symbol is typically placed in the top left- or right-hand corner of a mark. [Wikipedia]

What is a Copyright © ?
Copyright Symbl and Rules

Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phono-records of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.

The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine.

Links of Interest:

  • United States Patent and Trademark Office
  • Wikipedia on Trademarks
  • Wikipedia on Patent
  • Novartis: do Indian patent laws stifle research? The story of Novartis’ challenge to a particular provision of the Indian Patents Act 1970 goes much beyond its interest in the patent application for its life-saving cancer drug ‘Gleevec’ (imatinib mesylate). It is a story involving many powerful players each trying to wrest the initiative and many conflicting interests each trying to influence the development of patent law in this country.
  • Indian - American patents of interest:
    • Patent on Neem:The neem tree (Azadirachta indica) originates from the Indian subcontinent and now grows in the dry regions of more than 50 tropical countries around the world. The neem tree has multiple uses. It is mentioned in Indian texts written over 2000 years ago and has been used for centuries by local communities in agriculture as an insect and pest repellent, in human and veterinary medicine, toiletries and cosmetics. It is also venerated in the culture, religions and literature of the region. Largest number of patents is in USA (54) followed by Japan (35), Australia (23), India (14). In India additionally more than 53 patent applications are pending for either gazette notification or opposition since 1995. If granted India will have the largest number of patents in neem. This itself illustrates that IPR does not stifle creativity and innovation but creates challenges and opportunities to over come the existing patents barriers by innovation and invention. There is also an increasing trend of filing application through PCT. An analysis of type of patents suggests that majority of them are for crop protection applications (63%), followed by health care (13%), industrial (5%), veterinary care (5%), cosmetics (6%) and others (8%). This trend is also shown in country wise granted patents. For example in US out of 54 patents granted 31 were for crop protection rest for healthcare, cosmetics, industrial and veterinary applications. Organization wise patents ownership indicates largest number owned by Certis - W.R. Grace (49) followed by Rohm & Haas (36), CSIR-India (14), Trifolio (9), Bayer (8) and EID Parry (6).
    • Neem Patent revoked by European Patent Office: The challenge to the patent had been made at the Munich office of the EPO by three groups: the EU Parliament's Green Party, Dr. Vandana Shiva of the India-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.
    • Patent on Turmeric (Haldi). Turmeric is a tropical herb grown in East India, and the powdered product made from the rhizomes of its flowers has several popular uses worldwide. Turmeric powder, which has a distinctive deep yellow color and bitter taste, is used as a dye, a cooking ingredient, and a litmus in a chemical test, and has medicinal uses as well. In the mid-1990s, this product became the subject of a patent dispute with important ramifications for international trade law. A U.S. patent on turmeric was awareded to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1995, specifically for the "use of turmeric in wound healing." This patent also granted them the exclusive right to sell and distribute turmeric.[1] Two years later, a complaint was filed by India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, which challenged the novelty of the University's "discovery," and the U.S. patent office investigated the validity of this patent. In India, where turmeric has been used medicinally for thousands of years, concerns grew about the economically and socially damaging impact of this legal "biopiracy." In 1997, the patent was revoked. But for two years the patent on turmeric had stood, although the process was non-novel and had in fact been traditionally practiced in India for thousands of years, as was eventually proven by ancient Sanskrit writings that documented turmeric’s extensive and varied use throughout India’s history. Many developing countries are concerned that the globalization of intellectual property rights under the WTO's TRIPs agreement, and the negative consequences it has for traditional indigenous knowledge and biodiversity. Also: Turmeric an Indian discovery, says US patent office
    • Will the West now patent even Kamasutra poses? - Well, one can patent support devices for yoga like gloves and mats but not any specific asana . If there are, then, the government should take it up and file a revocation immediately


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Trivia and Questions for Indians and Immigrants in America

General Trivia : Introduction //Dollars and Cents // Social Security Number // About Mail and USPS // Story of The Old Glory // Green Card– Why Not Green? // Telephone Area Codes // Convex Mirrors and Caution // Bankruptcy and Chapter 11 // Radio and TV Broadcasting // Consumerism: Trivia on Wal-Mart. // Retail Trivia // Gas Prices– What's 0.9 Cent? // Roads and Interstate Highways // Road Driving Trivia // Finance 101 // Daylight Saving Time // Trivia on Etiquette

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