As we discussed earlier, a trademark is a form of “intellectual property” that identifies the source of origin of a product or service. These trademarks can take the form of any of the following:
Simply using any of these items or combination thereof to distinguish one’s product or services can afford the owner trademark protection under what is known as “Common Law Trademark Protection.” However, it is advisable to register a trademark in order to be afforded the highest level of protection and to ensure the owner the ability to recover damages if trademark infringement occurs.
Federal trademark registration is handled through the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). States also have a process for trademark registration. For example, in Rhode Island trademark registration is handled through the RI Secretary of State’s Office. In order for a trademark to be registered it must be:
1- Trademark, Service Mark, Collective Mark or Certification Mark (more on these distinctions later)
2- A devise or method adopted or used to distinguish the goods or services from those of others
3- Distinctive, arbitrary or fanciful
4- Not confusingly similar to marks previously or currently in use or registered
Trademark registration can be a lengthy and detailed process and it is advisable to obtain the services of an attorney who specializes in this area of practice. Before a trademark can be registered, a search must be performed to establish whether the criteria listed above are met. In addition, there is a period whereby competitors or other entities may contest this registration.
So before you add that new logo to your stationary or launch that new packaging for your product, be sure that this new trademark can be registered and that it will not come back to haunt you.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and readers are encouraged to consult a qualified attorney regarding these matters.