Businesses often use devices so that consumers can distinguish the services and goods of one manufacturer or service provider from another. These devices may be graphic symbols, words, or names but may also include packaging, product shape, and even architectural appearance. Commonly referred to as trademarks, the devices make up four types of marks recognized under law:
• Trademark identifies goods;
• Service mark identifies services;
• Certification mark indicates goods or services of a business that meets certain standards or a certain type of manufacturer or operation;
• Collective mark identifies an organization or association and may be used by its members.
Marks may become valuable property and mark protection is as important to a sole proprietorship as it is to an international conglomerate.
When developing a mark always remember that a mark exists to distinguish your goods or services from the goods or services of other companies. Therefore, your mark must be unique. If not unique, it may not be registrable. If you are going to use a word mark, don't use generic words or words that describe your goods or services. This is because a trademark is a legal monopoly, and the Trademark Office won't permit a mark applicant to place commonly used words out of bounds from use by all others. For example, your firm makes photocopiers and use of that term in a mark will weaken the mark because it can't be protected from use by other firms. This is why firms invent terms like Xerox, Kodak, Viagra, and so on. These terms are unique, and when applied to a product or service they let consumers know that the product or service comes from a particular firm. These terms, once used, unlike generic and descriptive words, cannot be used by any other firm.
While an application for federal mark registration may be made by anyone, the process is involved and the rules complex. If a proposed mark is not fully researched, or the application is not properly made, the registration may be refused by the Trademark Office examiner, challenged by companies using similar marks, or the mark may not be protected in the event of a legal dispute with another mark owner. Also, a registered (as well as, an unregistered) mark must always be properly displayed so that its legal validity can be enforced. Mark registrations endure for ten years so long as interim rules are followed, and registrations may be renewed.
Let the Law Office of David MacTavish, LLC answer your mark questions, explain how to properly use and display your trademarks, and handle your application and document filings with the Trademark Office.