I. What is a trademark?
A trademark is any symbol, including a word, a design, or a
slogan, that is used to identify and distinguish one company's goods
from the goods of others. A symbol used to identify and distinguish
a company's services is a service mark. A trademark or a service
mark gives its owner the right to exclusive use of the mark to
identify and distinguish its goods or services throughout the area
in which the trademark owner has developed trademark rights. The
trademark owner can preclude others from using a mark in a manner
likely to cause confusion among consumers.
II. How can a trademark be valuable?
Trademarks and service marks allow consumers to pick out
particular goods or services from among many competing goods or
services in the marketplace. Trademark identification is often the
primary factor in motivating a purchaser to choose one product over
another. Additionally, the exclusionary rights that a mark provides
enables a trademark owner to protect the market that it has
developed for its particular goods or services.
III. What types of things can be trademarks?
Trademarks, or services marks, can consist of words or slogans,
designs, a number or other symbol, a shape, or a combination of any
of these things. Virtually anything that can identify and
distinguish the particular goods or services with which it is used
from competing goods or services can be a trademark or service mark.
IV. How are trademarks obtained?
All trademark rights arise from use of the mark. Proper use of an
available trademark to identify and distinguish one's goods or
services from competing goods or services can create common law
trademark rights. The symbol ™ may be used with the mark to indicate
the claim of trademark rights. Trademarks may be registered on the
state and federal levels and such registrations provide significant
advantages and generally maximize the value of the trademark.
Although all trademark rights ultimately require use, the first step
in developing trademark rights should be to conduct a trademark
search to ensure that the mark is available and is not already being
used. Trademark searching, or clearing, is particularly important
before funds are expended for advertising, packaging, or labeling.
All of these funds could be wasted if a prior owner of the mark
exists and has a right to exclude your use. Application for
registration can also be based on a bona fide intent to use the mark
prior to actual use. Federal trademark registrations are good for an
initial ten years, if an affidavit of continued use is filed at the
5 year point, and are renewable for ten year periods thereafter.
V. What types of things cannot serve as trademarks?
Generic terms for a good or service can never be trademarks for
the goods or services to which they apply because such terms cannot
identify and distinguish the particular goods or service from
competing goods or services. Descriptive terms, primarily
geographical terms, merely ornamental designs or features, and
personal names also cannot immediately function as a trademark or
VI. Internet connection:
Trademark and trade name selection counseling
Availability searches and opinions
Federal, state, and international trademark registration
Trademark registration maintenance
Trademark use counseling
Representation in trademark transactions (assignment, licensing, franchising, and merchandising)
Representation in inter partes proceedings before the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Trademark and unfair competition mediation and