Trademark in the United States protects distinctive marks, logos, and other symbols or phrases that may identify a good or service. Trademark is often used as a categorical word that includes other types of marks. In particular, and depending on the country, it may include:
- Trademarks (goods)
- Service Marks (provider of services)
- Trade Names (business names)
- Collective Marks (used by groups or organizations)
- Certificate Marks (marks used to certify a quality or source)
The importance of trademark is most evident when establishing and creating a "brand". In general, trademarks and brands help customers, consumers, or users of the service or good to identify the source and quality of the product or service being offered. Without trademark protection, a brand may suffer by allowing the inferior work of others who imitate and duplicate the product to be associated with that business, good, or service. Shoddy knock offs or imitations will hurt the public image of the brand through its association. Similarly, inadequate protection and enforcement against infringers can lead to diminished income in the form of direct competition. Trademarks are registered according to whether they are a good of service and the class they fall into. It is important to select these carefully in order to maximize the amount of protection afforded to a business.
Rights of Trademark Holders:
The type of trademark that is filed controls the rights of the mark holder in the United States. Federally registered trademarks are protected throughout all of the territories in the United States. However, trademarks that are registered only within one state will only be protected in that state. Further, the protection will only apply and be accept as long as the registration does not conflict with any previously filed or federally filed marks. In the United States, a mark holder may be entitled to damages, an injunction, or seizure of offending goods.
If expanding abroad, generally the mark needs to be recognized by the country in which protection is sought. Treaties and organizations exist to make the recognition and protection of these marks more simple and feasable. However, ultimate success depends on the scope of recognition available in the foreign jurisdiction and whether other requirements are in place; such as actual use of the trademark. Not only does registering a mark entitle the owner to its protection, but it also allows the owner to either license the mark or start engage in franchising. There are also limitations on what may be trademarked. Supergeneric words and ,in a great number of jurisdictions, geographic indicators may not form part of the trademark. While there are common law rights arising out of the actual use of trademarks, FelceLaw encourages all those who seek protection to register their marks and acquire advice from an attorney. FelceLaw can help register your mark properly, defend your mark, or assist in the licensing or franchising of your mark and other intellectual property.