What is a Trademark and How Does it Benefit You?

I regularly get asked basic questions about trademark law. I put together a reference sheet to provide some of the basics of trademark law and what may be the best way for them to move forward to best protect their company brand and maximize company goodwill.

What is a trademark?

15 U.S.C. §1127 states “The term ‘trademark’ includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof…to identify and distinguish his or her goods, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods, even if that source is unknown.”

A service mark applies to a service instead of a good. According to 15 U.S.C. §1127, “Titles, character names, and other distinctive features of radio or television programs may be registered as service marks notwithstanding that they, or the programs, may advertise the goods of the sponsor.”

If you have a mark that meets the service mark or trademark definition, you should consider registering with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).

How does federally registering my trademark benefit me?

Registering a trademark on the federal level is an effective way to protect your mark for various reasons. First, federal registration provides constructive notice of ownership. Registration also allows for recovery of profits in the event a party infringes on your trademark, provides a basis to register your trademark in other countries, deters counterfeiters with potential criminal penalties, employs U.S. Custom Services to prevent counterfeit goods from entering the U.S., and various other protections. Federally registering a trademark serves as a deterrent to would-be infringers and an enforcement mechanism in the event your trademark is infringed.

Can you register your trademark in your state?

You also can register your trademark in your state. The process is often cheaper than registering with the U.S.P.T.O., which costs $275 per trademark class. If you only intend to offer your goods and services in New York, for instance, you can file a trademark with the office of the secretary of state. Please note, every state provides common law trademark rights that protect against unfair business competition.

Trademarking a good or service can be an effective way to protect your brand. If you sell a good or service and have a logo, name, or design that you wish to protect consider filing a trademark. An attorney can walk you through the process and address any issues you might face.

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