Trademarks protect certain words, symbols, devices, or names that are used in connection with a company's services and/or goods. If a mark is used in connection with a service (instead of goods), it's called a "service mark" but the word trademark is generally used to describe both service marks and trademarks. A trademark is beneficial because it allows your business to distinguish the goods and/or services you provide.
Whether you have basic questions about getting trademark protection for your own business, are ready to file for federal trademark registration, or need assistance with a potential trademark infringement action, an experienced trademarks attorney can evaluate your situation and recommend the proper steps to take.
What Is a Trademark?
The owner of a trademark has both the exclusive right to use the mark and to prevent other people or companies from using a mark that's so similar that it may confuse the public as to the goods and/or services associated with the it. Registration with the federal government is not a prerequisite for owning a trademark. Instead, a business simply needs to use the mark in connection with a legitimate good and/or service that is in commerce. To signify that a particular mark is under trademark protection, the business can use "TM" (for trademark) or "SM" (for a service mark). If the trademark is registered with the federal government, the symbol "®" can also be used.
Federal Trademark Application
Although registering with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is optional, it does provide certain benefits. A trademark application must include: the name of the applicant, a name and address for communication between the applicant and the USPTO, a depiction of the mark, the goods and/or services associated with the mark, and the filing fee. Inclusion of a specimen of use may also be required of some applicants. If an application doesn't contain all of the required elements, the application and fee will be returned to the applicant.
How a Trademarks Attorney Can Help
If you are thinking about registering a trademark or service mark with the USPTO (or with an agency in your state), a trademark attorney can guide you through every step of the process, including a thorough search of existing marks, and preparation and submission of all necessary materials. Or, if you are on either side of a trademark infringement case, a trademark attorney will take all appropriate action to ensure that your rights and interests are protected. An attorney can research and present legal arguments for your position, negotiate the case on your behalf, and represent your interests at all phases of the case. In the event of a lawsuit (regardless of which side you are on) representation by an experienced trademark attorney is critical to protect your legal rights and financial interests.
Finding a Trademark Attorney
If you're interested in getting legal help with a trademark, whether it's to find out if your ideas qualify for trademark protection or would like to learn more about registering a trademark, you should contact an experienced trademark attorney in your area.
If you would like more information and resources related to trademarks and other types of intellectual property, you can visit FindLaw's section on Intellectual Property.