What Is a Trademark?

Trademark protections are available for various names, devices, words, or symbols that can be used in connection with a service or good. Additionally, there are certain marks that are associated with a service, and these will be called “service marks.” However, “trademark” is the common term used to refer to marks associated with both goods and services. Trademarks are designed to allow companies and individuals to distinguish themselves from others in the industry and to indicate the source of their goods or services.

Most people are familiar with trademarks through business names, logos, or slogans. Here, we want to discuss what trademarks do, how a person or business can register a trademark, and whether or not you will need legal assistance with these matters.

What Do Trademarks Do?

A trademark will give the trademark owner the exclusive rights to use that mark while also preventing others from using a similar mark that could be considered confusing to the general public. However, trademarks do not prevent other individuals or companies from making or selling the same goods or services under a mark that is clearly different.

Without actually noticing it, most people see “TM” (for trademark) or “SM” (for service mark) to designate the mark on a product. Additionally, the “®” can be used to designate federal registration of a trademark, though this can only be used after the steps that we will discuss below.

What Can Be Registered As Trademarks?

A person can trademark various things that are used to distinguish their business from other businesses. Some of the most commonly trademarked items include:

  • A business name
  • A product name
  • Logos or labels
  • Symbols or designs
  • Sounds
  • Product packaging

How Do You Register a Trademark?

A person can hold the rights to a mark without having it registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). However, registration with this office does have advantages. For example, registration of a mark will typically give legal presumption that the holder of the registrant is the trademark owner. This will allow the trademark owner to have the ability to file lawsuits related to the mark in federal court, as opposed to only state courts. Registering a trademark can be done online through the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).

In order to register a trademark, the application will typically need to include the following:

  • Name of the applicant
  • Name and address for correspondence between the applicant and the USPTO
  • Depiction or drawing of the mark
  • List of goods and services that the mark will be associated with
  • Filing fee

Should You Work With an Attorney With Trademarks?

As we mentioned above, a person can go through the trademark process online and on their own. However, depending on the nature and scope of your business, it may be necessary to work with a skilled business lawyer in Orange County who has experience with trademark law. If you believe that another person is using your trademark illegally, you should certainly speak with an attorney to determine whether a trademark violation has occurred and what steps you need to take moving forward.

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