Trademark Definition What It Protects Symbols Example

Trademark Definition What It Protects Symbols Example

Trademark Definition, What It Protects, Symbols, Example

Carla Tardi is a technical editor and digital content producer with 25+ years of experience at top-tier investment banks and money-management firms.

What Is a Trademark?

A trademark refers to an insignia, phrase, word, or symbol that denotes a specific product and differentiates it from others. It exclusively identifies a product as belonging to a company and recognizes its ownership of the brand. Trademarks are a form of intellectual property and may or may not be registered.

Key Takeaways

– A trademark is a recognizable symbol, phrase, or word that denotes a specific product.

– It differentiates a product from others and recognizes the source company’s ownership of the brand.

– Trademarks may or may not be registered and are denoted by the ™ symbol.

– Regular use of a trademark is required to receive protection.

Understanding Trademarks

Trademarks distinguish products within legal and business systems and also with consumers. They protect and identify words and design elements that indicate the source of a product or service. Trademarks can be logos, slogans, bands, or brand names. A service mark identifies the source of a service. Trademarks prevent others from using a company’s products or services without permission. They also prohibit marks that have a likelihood of confusion. For example, a soft drink company cannot use a symbol or brand name similar to Coca-Cola’s.

A trademark can be protected without registration. In the United States, trademarks can be registered through the USPTO and are identified with the ® symbol. Unregistered trademarks can be recognized with the ™ symbol, indicating common law protection.

Trademark laws do not expire, but continuous lawful use is required. Companies must regularly manufacture, produce, market, and sell products with a particular trademark. Failure to do so can result in the loss of registration.

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Special Considerations

Trademarks can be bought, sold, and licensed. LEGO licenses famous sub-brands like Star Wars and DC Comics to produce LEGO versions of products. Trademarks are also used to market brand names effectively.

Some brands, like Kleenex, have become so prominent that they are used as generic terms. The Kleenex trademark, owned by Kimberly Clark, was launched in 1924 and is now the number one selling facial tissue in the world. Similarly, Band-Aid brand adhesive bandages, launched by Johnson & Johnson in 1920, have become the generic term for self-adhesive bandages.

Trademark vs. Patent vs. Copyright

Trademarks are distinct from patents and copyrights. A patent grants inventor exclusive rights to a design, process, or invention for a certain period of time. Copyrights protect intellectual property and allow exclusive reproduction for a specific period. Trademarks, however, do not cover brand names, slogans, and logos.

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