Trademark is a form of intellectual property protection. Certain symbols, names, words, or devices that are used in connection with a good or service can be protected under trademark laws. Trademarks allow your company to indicate the source of your goods or services and distinguish them from others providing similar goods or services. FindLaw's Trademarks section provides information on creating, registering, and protecting a trademark, and tips on avoiding trademark infringement problems. In this section you can also find links to forms and resources from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Registering a trademark with the USPTO is not a requirement to receive trademark protection. Instead, trademark protection is established through the legitimate use of the mark (in a commercial setting). Registration does provide certain advantages to the trademark owner. For example, registering a trademark with the USPTO provides a legal presumption that the registrant is in fact the owner of the trademark. Registration is also a prerequisite in order for the trademark registrant/owner to file a lawsuit related to the trademark in federal court.
If a person does decide to register his or her trademark, he or she must follow a specific set of standards and procedures. The application for a trademark must include: the name of the applicant, a name and address for communications between the applicant and the USPTO, a depiction of the mark, the list of goods and/or services the mark will be used for, and the filing fee. A specimen of use, which is a real world example of how the mark is used, may also be required of certain applicants. A few examples of a specimen of use is a brochure, website, tag, label, or a listing from the yellow pages. If an application is incomplete or doesn't conform to the standards set forth by the USPTO, the application and filing fee will be returned to the applicant.
Designating Trademark Protection
Speaking technically, a mark that is used in association with services is called a service mark, while a mark used to identify goods is called a trademark. But, trademark can generally be used to refer to both service marks and trademarks. A person who claims trademark protection in a particular slogan, symbol, short phrase, or name has that right to use "SM" for a service mark and "TM" for a trademark. There is no formal registration or other process required to use either of these letters. If a person decides to register a trademark with the USPTO, he or she also has the option to use the symbol "®." This symbol specifically indicates federal registration and can only be used in association with the goods and/or services that were specifically listed in trademark application.
Hiring a Trademarks Attorney
Trademark protection can be an important asset to your business – it allows you to distinguish the goods or services your business provides as opposed to other businesses in your particular field. An experienced trademarks attorney can help you with anything from figuring out if your mark qualifies for trademark protection to registering a trademark with the USPTO to helping you in the event that some else uses your trademark.