The Apple Computer and Microsoft Windows logos are registered trademarks belonging to those corporations.Original artwork used as a trademark can, unlike words, be owned by the holder of the trademark.
You may think of a patent as an ownership claim on a strange invention or chemical process.
And when you think of a copyright, you may visualize a book, a magazine article, or a piece of music branded with a name and date claiming ownership of that work.
Where do graphics file formats fit into this scheme?
Owning a trademark doesn't mean that you own the actual words associated with the trademark claim (although Eastman Kodak and Xerox Corporation might disagree).
The trademark only bestows ownership of a word or phrase within a certain context, such as the word windows within the context of the computer industry.
Trademarks are important in the world of graphics file formats.
Compu Serve owns the trademark "GIF"; Adobe (and formerly Aldus) owns the trademark "TIFF"; and Microsoft owns the trademark "RIFF". Graphical logos can also be the subject of trademarks.
Let's start to answer this question by examining trademarks, then patents, and finally copyrights.
NOTE: The authors are not attorneys, and this information should not be construed as legal advice.