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A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or graphics, which identifies the origin of goods or services. This identification allows others to determine the source of the goods or services—stated another way, what company/organization is providing that good or service.
Examples of a trademark include:
- Word or Words: a business name or a product name
- Graphics: a logo for a business
For example, a company would name their denim jeans so consumers know that if they see that name identifying denim jeans at different times, the consumer knows the denim jeans are coming from the same place—their company and not another company. The denim jeans’ name is a trademark. If the denim jeans are sold in multiple states, then the company can register the trademark—the denim jeans’ name—with the federal government to obtain certain additional rights for their trademark.
The company, in the example above, has the option of registering or not registering the trademark—the denim jeans’ name—with the federal government. If the trademark is not registered with the federal government, the trademark will still have some protection against someone else using the trademark under what is called “common law” rights. But, if the company registers the trademark with the federal government, the company gains the following advantages:
(1) the company puts people on notice that their company is claiming the right to use that trademark in association with denim jeans; and
(2) if there is a dispute later, it is presumed that the company owns the trademark and the company has the exclusive right to use that trademark for denim jeans for all of the United States.
Practically, these advantages help the company protect their trademark. By giving notice to others—by filing the trademark with the federal government—the company has reduced the chances that another company will inadvertently pick the same name to identify denim jeans, which will reduce potential disputes for the company in the future and also preserve the uniqueness of their trademark. Additionally, if there is a challenge by another company—which says their common law trademark has priority over the company’s federally registered trademark—the company has the legal presumption that the company has exclusive and nationwide rights to the federally registered trademark. This legal presumption increases the odds that the challenge to the company’s federally registered trademark will not be successful.
These added benefits of registering one’s trademark with the federal government—as described in the example—are a strong incentive for many people to spend the extra time and money to register their trademark with the federal government. If a name is important to a company, then registering that name with the federal government is a logical step in preventing the company from losing the right to use that name for identifying their product or service.
Your federal registration trademark application will include: (a) information about the owner of the trademark; (b) a description of the trademark; (c) description of the use of the trademark; (d) evidence of use of the trademark (example: a webpage printout, picture of a product label, etc.); and (e) other miscellaneous information.
View the Trademark Q&A's page for more information about trademarks.
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