What is a Trademark?
A trademark or a service mark is a word, name, symbol or device that can be useful to identify a particular company or brand. The purpose of the trademark is to make it easier for sellers and consumers to distinguish among the different sources of goods and services that are available for purchase.
A trademark is eligible for certain legal protections. To protect your trademark and receive the maximum benefit from its use, you may need the assistance of an experienced attorney. However, a basic understanding of trademarks is a helpful starting point.
Trademarks as Intellectual Property
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has a searchable database of registered trademarks within the United States. Each trademark must be distinct and unique in order to avoid confusion among different brands. An individual or organization may not register a trademark if there is an existing live registration for the same or a confusingly similar mark.
A trademark may be a symbol, such as the McDonald’s golden arches or the apple with a bite taken out of it that is registered to Apple computers. However, other things besides just distinctive marks can be trademarked. A name, such as Coco Chanel or Ralph Lauren, can be trademarked. A catch phrase such as “Just Do It,” can be registered—and, in fact, was registered by Nike. A mascot or a famous figure, such as a sports team mascot or the Geico Gecko, can also be trademarked. Even song lyrics may be trademarked, as reflected in Taylor Swift's widely-reported move to trademark lyrical phrases like "this sick beat," "party like it's 1989," and "nice to meet you, where you been?"
Once a trademark is registered, the owner has exclusive rights to the identifying word, name, symbol or device. The trademark owner is the only one who can use the intellectual property and the only one who can make a profit off of its use. The trademark owner can, however, license the mark, such as when a sports team allows a clothing company to create and sell jerseys with the name of the team or players on it.
If a trademark is used by someone other than the registered owner, the owner can take legal action to stop the behavior. The trademark owner could obtain an injunction to stop the mark from being misused. The trademark owner could also sue for monetary damages or losses caused by the unauthorized use of the brand name, word, symbol or device.
Registering a trademark can make it easier to defend your ownership interest in your intellectual property, since federal registration makes clear that you or your organization is the sole owner of the identifying mark, word or symbol. However, registering a trademark is not necessarily always required to obtain an injunction or legal compensation for misuse of the brand. If you have an identifying symbol for your business and a rival company misappropriates that symbol, you could still use the legal system to protect it as long as you can prove that the symbol belongs to your organization.
The Importance of Trademarks
The International Trademark Association lists multiple reasons why trademarks are important within the business world and within the global economy. Trademarks are important because:
- Trademarks protect consumers, who can use the mark to identify trusted brands and make informed, confident and safe purchasing choices. For example, a person who eats at McDonald’s anywhere in the world will know the type of food that he is going to receive, while a person who buys an Apple computer can always identify it as a computer made by one of the top companies worldwide.
- Trademarks promote global economic growth.
- Trademarks and other types of intellectual property can help to foster competition and encourage innovation.
Trademarks are widely understood to protect a crucial part of your brand's equity: the brand's core identity. It is little wonder, then, that investments in global branding were valued at around half-a-trillion dollars in 2011, according to studies conducted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The most valuable brand as of 2014, Apple, had an estimated brand value of 104,680 million dollars, according to brand valuation and strategy consultancy firm Brand Finance. Apple has been known to aggressively protect its trademark apple symbol and branding.
Clearly, trademarks are highly valuable, and thus, worth protecting in the modern business environment.
Do You Need Assistance with a Trademark Infringement Issue in Conshohocken?
If you are dealing with a trademark infringement situation, you need to take action immediately in order to protect your brand. Contact our experienced attorneys now by calling 610-834-8819 or using our online form to schedule your free, private consultation. Our Conshohocken law firm handles intellectual property law, trademark infringement, and copyright infringement issues throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We also offer a range of alternative fee options that are often particularly well-suited to commercial claims.