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What Are Trademarks?
A trademark most often protects IP associated with companies, such as a word, phrase, symbol or design used to identify and promote products or services. Companies may also use a service mark, which protects their services in the same way trademarks protect their goods.
Trademark registration can help a business to differentiate what they make, do and sell from their competitors’ offerings. Businesses can become more recognizable and attractive to consumers through the use of their exclusive names, logos and other branding elements, because no other businesses will be permitted to use such elements if they are protected by trademarks.
What does it mean when a trademark is registered?
In the Unites States, the ™ symbol is used to denote unregistered trademarks, while the ® indicates that a trademark has been registered. A registered trademark makes it easier for you to prove ownership of your mark and to take action if someone infringes on your mark. It can also prevent others from using marks that are deceptively similar to yours.
What can be protected by trademarks?
Trademark examples can be found everywhere and are sometimes surprising! For instance, did you know trademarks may be applied to colors, sounds and even scents? Elements that may be protected by trademarks include but are not limited to:
- Brand names
- Product names
- Logos and symbols
- Product shapes
- Fictitious characters
How can I register a trademark?
To protect IP such as a brand name, the trademark application process begins with a trademark lookup. You can visit the Trademark Electronic Search System (“TESS”) database and do a trademark name search to find out if someone else is already using an identical or similar mark in the same class of products or services that you offer. If you have a unique mark to register, you can file an application online using the Trademark Electronic Application System.
The Trademark Office website provides more information on the application process, from the trademark fees you’ll encounter to whether or not you’ll need a trademark attorney.