A trademark can distinguish the source of your goods from other sources by using a name, word, device, or symbol as a distinctive indicator or sign. Sometimes called a servicemark when it is used to identify a service rather than a product, the mark shows that the particular service originates from a unique source.
Trademarks may be designated through the use of any of a number of symbols:
- is the symbol for a registered trademark.
- is the symbol for an unregistered trademark. This is a mark that a company might use to brand or to promote their goods.
- is an unregistered service mark. It is used to brand or to promote services.
The only time that you are permitted to use the symbol ® is after the USPTO has registered the mark. It cannot be used while your application is still pending.
However, if you have claimed rights to a mark you can use the symbols and/or ” to alert others that you have claimed the mark – whether or not you have filed a trademark application with the USPTO.
Legal proceedings for trademark infringement may be initiated by the owner of a registered trademark in order to prevent others from making unauthorized use of their trademark.
Unregistered trademarks may also be protected by filing a lawsuit as well, but the protection would only apply to a specific geographic area within which the trademark has been used or in an area or areas into which it could reasonably be expected that it will be used in the foreseeable future.
Informally, trademarks are also used as a reference to a distinguishing attribute that a person is readily identified by. This would be the case particularly with well known celebrities.
Trademark rights could be used to stop other people from using a mark that appears to be very similar. However trademark rights cannot stop others from manufacturing or selling the same services or goods under a clearly different servicemark or trademark.
If an entity envisions using a trademark in interstate or foreign commerce then it can be registered with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) in order to be protected nationwide.
How Long Do Trademarks Last?
If a trademark is federally registered the rights can last indefinitely should the owner continue to use the mark on goods or in connection with services or goods in the registration provided that the owner has filed all of the necessary documents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office at the appropriate times.