Trademark information can include everything related to your trademark. For example, this could be symbols that you use to brand your product, or even the name of your company. Trademark registration is one of the most powerful forms of intellectual property rights, and is a crucial part of running a successful business.

Overview of Trademarks

In commerce, a trademark is a mark that you can use to identify your business's goods, and it can be any one of the following items:

  • A word
  • A name
  • A design
  • A symbol

Service marks serve the same purpose as trademarks. The only difference is that service marks are for use in branding services instead of goods. Through intensive marketing and advertising, your trademark can become an extremely valuable business asset. The point of a trademark is helping your customers to identify your mark with your business.

In addition to words and symbols, there are several other types of intellectual property that are available for trademarks:

  • Colors
  • Fragrances
  • Shapes
  • Sounds

Trademark law has expanded in recent years to also include anti-dilution protection and trade dress. Your mark must meet two basic qualifications before it will be available for trademark registration. First, your mark should be distinct and original. Second, you should use your mark for commercial purposes.

The reason that you need to use your mark for commerce is that trademarks are granted on the basis that Congress has the authority to regulate commerce between the states. Under the Lanham Act, a trademark is a mark that's registered for the purpose of commerce or a mark that is already used in commerce.

If you apply for trademark registration but are not currently using your mark for commerce, your registration may still get approved if you state in writing that you plan to use your mark for commercial purposes in the future. Exclusive rights to a trademark are traditionally granted to the first person to use the mark in commerce. The requirement that your trademark be distinct basically means that the average person should not be able to confuse your mark with another.

Generally, trademarks belong to one of four categories:

  • Fanciful or arbitrary
  • Suggestive
  • Descriptive
  • Generic

Trademarks that fall into the fanciful or suggestive categories are considered to be very distinct and would be eligible for registration. Descriptive trademarks can only be registered if the mark has obtained a secondary meaning. You would also need to establish a secondary meaning if you want to register a trademark based on a geographic location or a person's name. Generic marks are not eligible for trademark registration because they are too broad.

Trademark Registration Information

Federal protection for commercial trademarks is available under the Lanham Act. In some cases, unregistered trademarks can also be protected at the federal level.

Even though you are not required to register your trademark to protect your mark federally, registration still provides several benefits. For instance, after registering your mark, your rights to it will be secured throughout the country. Also, after your mark has been registered for five years, it will have an incontestable status, which gives you fuller protections and makes it more difficult for others to defend themselves in a trademark infringement case.

You do not need to file your trademark registration by a specific date, which is much different than when applying for a patent. For instance, you would not be able to apply for a “use” trademark until you have used your mark in interstate commerce. Common law protections at the state level can protect unregistered trademarks.

Registering a federal trademark provides much fuller protections than common law marks, including:

  • Providing you ownership and exclusive rights to your trademark.
  • Notifying the public that you own your mark.
  • Publicly listing your trademark in the Patent and Trademark Office's database.
  • Making it easier to prevent import of foreign goods infringing your mark.
  • Allowing you to file a trademark infringement suit in federal court.
  • Simplifying the process of acquiring a registration in another country.

After your trademark has been federally registered, you may use the registered trademark symbol ®. Before your trademark has been federally registered, you can use the TM symbol instead. Both of these marks indicate that your mark has legal protection.

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