A trademark is a form of intellectual property. It is a distinctive sign that can be created or adopted in the form of any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services. It’s how customers recognize you in the marketplace and distinguish you from your competitors.
- Identifies the source of your goods or services.
- Provides legal protection for your brand.
- Helps you guard against counterfeiting and fraud.
In the United States, specifically, it is not necessary to register a trademark in order to establish ownership of one. However, registration is a best practice because otherwise, it can become costly and complex to prove ownership, enforce trademark rights, or request payment of damages for trademark misappropriation.
What can be trademarked?
- – Product names and nicknames (for example, both Coca-Cola and Coke are marked)
- – Logos
- – Sounds (like the distinct NBC chimes)
- – Business names
- – Slogans (like Nike’s “Just Do It”)
- – Color combinations or schemes (like the brown of a UPS truck)
- – Smells (yes, smells. Hasbro received a Play-Doh scent trademark in 2018)
What can’t be trademarked?
- – Any mark that is already in use, or is too similar to a mark already in use
- – Generic descriptive words
- – Commonly used phrases or messages
- – Direct religious quotes and passages
What is the trademark symbol? How do I use it?
A trademark symbol TM informs the public that someone claims rights over a logo or word as a trademark. This may serve as evidence of knowledge that a trademark is owned by another. A ® symbol indicate that a trademark is registered before the USPTO.