Trademark 101: ® TM SM

What is a Trademark? 

Per the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO), a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, colors, sounds, short audiovisual clips, product, configurations, packaging, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. 

A trademark is a combination of federal and state law. Therefore, once you have a registered Trademark you are protected on a national level. 

To make it simple, a Trademark can be anything that indicates the source of goods and/or services. 

Why Do You Need a Trademark? 

Trademarks protect a trademark owner’s interest in brand name, value, and good will. Trademarks indicate to potential consumers the source of the goods and/or services they are purchasing. Your brand recognition signals to your consumers that they are receiving quality goods/services. Trademarks protect consumers from being confused into purchasing similar goods and/or services from other companies or “knockoff.”

What Can be Trademarked? 

As stated above, Trademarks can be words, phrases, symbols, etc. For example, words like Nike and Coca-Cola or symbols like the Nike Swoosh. Also, phrases like “Just Do it” or “Have it your way” are all trademarks. 

You can Trademark your company’s name, products, and/or services. This is a great way to ensure your customers know your company and what you offer, as well as putting your competitors on notice what marks belong to you. 

What Makes a Good Trademark? 

image of coca-cola bottle drawing. Early trademark sketch.
Coca-Cola’s first trademark was registered January 31, 1893.

A good trademark balances ease of imprinting into consumers mind while not being generic or descriptive. A good trademark must not be used and/or registered by another which may cause consumer confusion. 

Strong Trademarks are created from scratch and are made without regard to reason or reality. The strongest Trademarks are completely made-up words that combine words or elements of words into a new word. It may or may not have relevance to the business. Trademarks like Xerox, Google, Rolex, and Kodak did not exist anywhere until those companies made up those words. 

Another strong Trademark could be an arbitrary word. These are words that already exist but have adopted a whole new meaning or brand when applied to your industry like Apple, Amazon, or Target. 

Amazon brand is an “arbitrary” word that is out of the element of the industry but adopts a whole new meaning or brand when applied to your industry.“Amazon” previously meant “a river” or “a jungle”; now it means “Books/Music/Retail Goods.”  Apple was a fruit, now computers and phones. Target was an archery tool, now a retailer.

Trademarks should avoid root words already in use, acronyms and letters, misspellings, and descriptive names. Descriptive names, or names whose key word or root word, describes what your business does or directly states what the business does are not strong marks and will likely not receive registration. 

Why You Should Register Your Trademark? 

By registering your Trademark with the USPTO you establish ownership of your brand while also signifying to others it belongs to you. It prevents others from registering confusingly similar marks. Once your mark is registered you have national protection from the date you file. 

By also having a registered Trademark, you may bring lawsuits against others that use your Trademark without permission. Courts will look for similarity of the goods and services and if they caused consumers to be confused on where the goods or services came from. 

Image of trademarked Nike Swoosh.
Swoosh officially trademarked June 18, 1971. 

You may still be protected if you do not register your Trademark but only on a state level. This leaves room for your competitors to scoop your brand in other states or locales. This could lead to you losing out on potential customers.

Do You Need an Attorney to Register Your Trademark? 

The USPTO has guides on how you can register your Trademark yourself, however, it is best to utilize an Attorney to help conduct a “knockout search” to ensure there is no likelihood of confusion. Additionally, an Attorney will help select the appropriate classification for your Trademark.  An Attorney may also help in writing your Trademark application. If your application has errors or is not prepared properly the USPTO may return your application by sending you what is called an Office Action. Attorneys know how to work with the USPTO and examining attorneys to make sure your application is prepared properly and completed in a timely manner. 

Our Attorneys are here to make this process easier for you. Our experienced Attorneys will handle the Trademark registration from start to finish allowing you to focus on other areas of your business. We know your brand is important to you and not protecting it can be very costly to your business. We pride ourselves in making the Trademark process as smooth as possible for you. 

From conducting a knockout search to completing the application, and responding to any office actions, our Attorneys will make sure your brand is registered and protected. You can review in detail the Trademark services Nowlin Scott Law Firm offers, HERE.

Click HERE to schedule a consultation to review your Trademark options.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Check out some of our other informative blog posts, here.