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Basic Facts about Trademarks and What Every Small Business Should Know Now

Here at Creative Law Network, we know that your trademark is one of your business’ most valuable assets.  It is your brand, the face of your business and the icon with which your clients will connect.  While it may seem small and is often overlooked, it is important to ensure that your trademarks are protected properly.

What is a business trademark?

A trademark is a recognizable word or words, image, design, symbol, or expression which identifies a product or service as belonging to a specific business or organization, distinct from the other products and services offered by other businesses and organizations.  Your trademark may be your name, logo, or tagline.  Trademarks can consist of words, symbols, patterns, designs, slogans, catch phrases or expressions, icons, and even sounds—like jingles.  Trademarks are intellectual property and can be owned by an individual or a business.  Trademarks can be located on a package, a label, a flyer, or a business card, and can be displayed anywhere you might see a business or brand name.

What are trademarks used for?

In general, trademarks are used for identification, allowing clients and customers to associate particular products or services with the business that manufactures or offers them; however, trademarks also serve a much more significant legal function.  By using a trademark to mark any product or service, a business is claiming exclusive rights to use that trademark — which means that if another business or individual attempts to use or copy that particular trademark, it may be an infringement of that trademark.  The most effective way to claim rights to a trademark is to register that trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Trademark registration can be a complex process. Although engaging a lawyer to register a trademark is not required, it is strongly recommended.

How can you tell is something is trademark protected?

Trademarks are designated by distinct symbols that indicate of the level of protection a trademark enjoys. These symbols include:

• The ‘trademark symbol,’ ™ indicates an unregistered trademark. This indicates a trademark enjoys “common law” rights;
• An unregistered ‘service mark,’ ℠ is used to identify a service; and
• The trademark ® indicates that it has been granted registration by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Where did trademarks come from?

One of the first uses of trademark symbols dates back to the Roman Empire, where blacksmiths would often mark the swords they made with a symbol identifying the sword’s maker.  In 1266, King Henry III passed the first trademark legislation under the Parliament of England requiring all bakers to use distinctive trademarks on the bread they sold.

Why are trademarks so important?

Your business’ trademark is one of its most important assets.  It ensures that your potential clients and customers know your name, your company, your products, your services, and your brand.  It is the recognizable icon of your business, and it promotes and advertises your business as effectively as that persistent jingle that always gets stuck in your head.  However, simply having a recognizable name or symbol for your business is not enough.  Your trademark needs to be registered to ensure that both it and your business remain protected from instances of infringement, piracy, and misrepresentation.  For more information about how to protect your trademark, or for information on how to prepare your trademark application, contact us at Creative Law Network today.

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Dave RatnerComment