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Trademarks: Introduction

Information about trademarks, service marks, and related matters.

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REFERENCE

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What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, used by a business to identify a product and distinguish it from other products.

A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes a service rather than a product. The term trademark—or the term mark—can be used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.

A trade name is a word, phrase, style, or symbol used to identify a business as a whole rather than a product or service of that business. A trade name is a means of establishing goodwill towards the business and symbolizes the business’s reputation.

Trade dress is the overall image a product, service, or business has in the marketplace. For a product, trade dress usually refers to the look and feel of its packaging and labeling. For a service or business, trade dress may refer to the way the place of business is designed and decorated. The distinctive, nonfunctional aspects of packaging, labeling, design, and decor may be protected by the law of unfair competition.

A registered trademark is a trademark that has been filed and recorded with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or an equivalent state office (usually the Secretary of State). Registering a trademark makes public the owner’s claims to the mark and entitles the possessor to collect more damages in a lawsuit. Federal trademark registrations are for periods of 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely as long as the mark continues to be used.

A trademark is different from either a copyright (which protects an original artistic or literary work) or a patent (which protects an invention).

General Information About Trademarks