A trademark is a type of identification that is used to distinguish particular goods from the goods of others.
Also referred to as a brand name, a trademark consists of a symbol, name, word, phrase or device. When people see a trademark, they may recognize the mark as representing a particular product.
Different Types of Trademarks
There are several different types of marks that you may want to use in order to have your company stand out from other businesses. While there are many trademarks that people see on a daily basis, examples of commonly recognized trademarks include McDonalds and Kleenex. A service mark, on the other hand, is similar to a trademark, yet it represents a particular service. For instance, Google uses a service mark on its internet searching service.
A third type of mark, known as trade dress, involves the use of distinctive packaging to set a brand apart from its competition. Trade dress includes characteristic use of shapes, color and décor. An example of trade dress includes Coca Cola’s packaging and how the brand differentiates itself from other sodas by its trade dress use of color and bottle shape.
Common Law Rights Regarding a Trademark
Although many companies will register a mark, it is not required. Companies can be the first to use a trademark for business purposes without federal registration under common law rights. While trademark rights prevent anyone else from using a similar mark, they do not prohibit a company from manufacturing the same good or selling it under a different mark. When making a claim to a mark, you can use the trademark label ‘TM’ even if you have not applied for federal registration of the mark. If you do register the mark, you can begin using ‘®’ as the federal registration symbol once the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially approves it.
Registration of a Trademark
There are a number of reasons why it may be advantageous for a company to obtain a federal trademark registration. These include:
• Provides legal evidence of trademark ownership.
• Notifies the nationwide public of the registrant’s ownership claim.
• Helps a business attain registration in a foreign company.
• Allows the federal court to become involved in a case of infringement.
When a trademark registration is filed with the U.S. Customs Service, any foreign goods that may infringe on the company’s trademark would be prevented from being imported.
Trademark Infringement Protection
Companies that use trademarks want to keep a product or service separate and distinguishable from others. Trademark infringement occurs when another company or entity uses symbols, phrases, words or packaging that may cause a customer to believe it is another business’s mark. The owner of the trademark may choose to take the infringer to court in order to keep them from using the confusing mark. The owner could opt to sue the other business for financial damages caused by misusing the mark.
How to Search for Registered Marks
Before you file an application to officially register your mark, you will want to make sure that it has not already been claimed by someone else. Conducting this search will save you both time and trouble. You can conduct a free search using the Trademark Electronic Search System on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website. If you have partnered with an attorney to help you through the trademark registration process, you may want to have him or her assist you with the search.
If you choose to register your trademark, forms can be found through the USPTO. As you fill out the application, it is important to know exactly what goods or services will be connected to the registration and what mark you wish to be registered. You must also indicate whether the filing is based on an existing use of the mark or a future intent to use the mark. Once the application is completed, you can file it online and pay the filing fee. You can also monitor the status of your application through the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval system. Make sure that you check your application status every few months after the initial filing.
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