What Is a Trademark?

Nike trademarks are trademarks owned by this leading shoe manufacturer. Companies like Nike use trademarks to protect their brand. With a trademark in place, a company can prevent unauthorized use of their intellectual property. Items that can be trademarked include catchphrases, names, figures, lyrics, and symbols.

A standard trademark registration will last for ten years, and when it is set to expire, you will need to re-register your trademark to secure another ten years of protection. If you don't regularly use your trademark, you may lose your rights to your mark.

Two Types of Trademarks

There are two different trademarks that are available. The ä symbol is used for common law trademarks, which are trademarks that are in use but have not yet been registered.

The ® symbol is for trademarks that have been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A registered trademark provides much more extensive protections than common law trademarks.

Five Levels of Trademarks Exist

If you're interested in registering a trademark, there are five different trademark levels that you could choose:

  • Fanciful: A fanciful trademark consists of a word that has no meaning outside of the mark. An example of this would be Kodak.
  • Arbitrary: These trademarks are words that exist in reality, but are not used to describe the actual products of the company. An example of this is Apple, a company that makes computers and other tech products.
  • Suggestive: A suggestive mark is a trademark that implies a connection between a company and a product.
  • Descriptive. A descriptive trademark describes the exact good that the company provides.
  • Generic: These marks are comprised of generic words or phrases such as “computer store.”

Trademark vs. Copyright: What's the Difference?

Copyrights and trademarks are legal protections for different types of intellectual property. You may be entitled to compensation if someone uses your copyright or trademark without obtaining your permission. If you've read a book, visited a website, or purchased a product, it's likely you've seen either the ™ or © symbol.

What Is a Copyright?

Copyrights are slightly easier to understand than trademarks. You can copyright any type of original content or intellectual property that you have created.

Types of intellectual property that can be protected by copyrights include:

  • Architectural plans
  • Paintings
  • Screenplays
  • Songs
  • Stories

When you copyright a piece of intellectual property, the work of art, not its subject matter, will be protected. For example, if two novels cover the same subject, their copyrights will not be violated if the writing style, length, and approach of the novels are different. While copyrights don't need to be registered, they won't last in perpetuity.

A copyright will last for the entire life of the artwork's creator plus seventy years after their death. Once your work of art is published, it will be protected by copyright law. Once the seventy-year post-death period has ended, the work of art becomes part of the public domain and can be used by anyone.

Ideas Can't Be Protected

Because ideas are so ubiquitous, they cannot be protected by any form of intellectual property law. However, you can use a trademark to protect the name of your idea as long as you put the idea to use. You can also protect a story, but not the subject matter that it covers.

The only way to protect an idea is by applying for a patent. However, there must be a plan in place to use your idea before a patent will be granted.

Nike and its Trademarks

Nike holds several trademarks, including their famous swoosh symbol and the phrase “just do it.” Essentially, Nike has trademark on its name, slogan, and symbol. If the company had failed to trademark any of these items, they could be used in another company's marketing.

NIKE vs. Nike

When referring to the actual Nike company, you would write NIKE, Inc. Use Nike, without the capitalization, when making reference to the brand.

Affiliate Brands

The correct way to reference one of Nike's affiliate brands is Hurley International LLC and Converse Inc.

The “Jumpman” Logo

One of Nike's most famous trademarks is the “Jumpman” logo, a silhouette of former NBA player Michael Jordan. This logo can be found on every Jordan brand sneaker, and originated with a Life magazine photograph.

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