The Basics of Trademark Protection

Trademarks are specific names, images, words, or other items that are used to identify particular goods or services. A trademark is an excellent way to promote a product or service. When used properly, these symbols or keywords will start to be associated with a business. Most importantly, trademarks are an important way to help differentiate one good or service from another.

Registering a trademark is an effective way to officially announce the ownership of a name, symbol, or phrase. This act alone can help prevent unauthorized use of the trademark because others are made aware of its existence. Having a trademark registered provides proof of its ownership. Users of unregistered trademarks can receive certain protections under common law rights, but registering a trademark is the only sure way to protect it from unauthorized use.

Trademarks offer protection to owners that prevent others from using similar logos or mottos for their companies. Once a trademark is registered its owner is granted the right to take unauthorized users of the trademark to court. While determining whether or not another’s trademark is similar can be difficult, a conflicting trademark is one that has a likelihood of being confused with a preexisting trademark.

Registered trademarks can be used by other companies in limited ways, better known as fair use. The United States allows use of a trademark when it is not being used to represent a different product or service. For example, a competitor is allowed to use a registered trademark if they are referring to the company that the trademark is registered to. A competitor can use an official slogan as long as the words are not being used to represent a product or service. This means that the competitor could use the slogan in their product description, but not in the product’s name.

Other countries have their own trademark requirements, but in some cases having an official U.S. trademark will help with international registration. Having a registered trademark can also help protect a business. Filing a registered trademark with the U.S. Customs Service can help keep certain foreign products off of the U.S. market.

Keep in mind that registering a trademark does not prevent others from producing or selling an identical product or service under a different trademark. Additionally, trademarks must remain in use in order to stay protected.

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