Trademarks are an essential component of every business. They are the most effective means of safeguarding the identity of certain items or services. They also inspire customer loyalty by making it easy for consumers to recognize a specific company as the maker or source of a product. Once a trademark is registered, it is protected from unauthorized use and has features that are similar to those of other types of property. But what exactly does a trademark protect?
This post goes on to explain what a trademark would protect and other vital pieces of information to be aware of.
What Does a Trademark Protect?
A trademark protects a company’s good or service from infringement or repetitional damage by another company. You can sue another company if they use your likeness to promote their own business ventures if you have a trademark.
Basically, a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of words that help consumers identify a specific product. A service mark is similar to a trademark, but it applies to services rather than goods. After they’ve been used, both marks are protected.
Trademarks also protect four types of goods:
- Generic trademarks
- Descriptive trademarks
- Suggestive trademarks
- Arbitrary trademarks or fanciful trademarks
After you’ve decided on a name or symbol, check to discover whether any other companies are using your proposed trademark on a national, regional, or local level.
Use-Based Trademark Protection vs. Registration-Based Trademark Protection
Your symbol is protected even if you haven’t registered it with the US Patent and Trademark Office. A “common law” trademark is what this is called. This works effectively for small geographic areas. It doesn’t function as well in a national setting, because enterprises with similar names or logos may exist all across the country.
But even if you haven’t registered your trademark, you can still use the TM logo to signify that you own it.
On the basis of the TM logo, disagreements may develop. However, this is a fine beginning point until you have time to register your brand with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Meanwhile, trademark registration provides extra protection even though trademark protection by use provides common law protection. This includes the following:
- Notification of the trademark to the general public
- Exclusive right to use the trademark to distribute products and services across the United States.
- Capacity to sue in federal court for patent infringement.
- Capacity to register a trademark in another country
- Opportunity to make a report with US Customs to prevent counterfeit goods from entering the country
What Is the Importance of a Trademark?
It’s crucial to distinguish trademark from trade name before facing the issue of trademark protection. A trade name is merely a business name, although being used interchangeably under false pretenses. A trademark is more than that; it is used to designate a specific company’s brand name. McDonald’s, on the other hand, is both a trade name and a trademark.
Because a trademark protects against infringement, it’s essential to have a mark that’s immediately recognizable. It not only defines your company, but it also adds long-term value and increases brand recognition. The better your trademark is, the more specific and iconic it is. A vague name or emblem is not only ineffective as a marketing tool, but it may also be ineligible for trademark protection.
What Does a Trademark Protect: Why You Should Consider It
You should consider pursuing a registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to protect your business. This safeguards your company and gives you an advantage in court. You will also have a legitimate claim to the trademark before anyone else if you file as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that TM is a trademark for products and SM is a trademark for services.
You should also take the following procedures to protect your trademark:
- Keep an eye out for companies that are using your trademark.
- Don’t make a verb out of your company name or trademark.
- If you’re unsure, register your trademark.
- Use the symbols TM or SM to denote that you own the name.
- Make your brand stand out by using bold fonts or styles.
- Always use a descriptive word over a generic one for your trademark. This increases the visibility of your company.
How Long Does a Trademark Last in the US?
A federal trademark in the United States can potentially last indefinitely, but it must be renewed every ten years. The registration can be renewed if the mark is still in use during the fifth and sixth years after it was first registered.
To do so, the owner must submit the necessary maintenance documentation to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) within the specified timeframes. For the trademark to be renewed, the owner must also meet the legal conditions.
What Happens if the Renewal Documents Are Filled After the Deadline?
If this happens, the United States Patent and Trademark Office may cancel your trademark. To avoid this, you must maintain your registration active by filing maintenance paperwork as required by law.
If your registration is canceled, it will not be renewed, and you will need to reapply. The USPTO allows petitioners to renew their registration for a 6-month grace period, but they must pay an extra price.
If your trademark is canceled or expires, it may still be protected under common law if you continue to use it for the same purposes as when it was first registered. While federal registration adds to the benefits and protections provided by common law, it does not grant new rights.
What Does a Trademark Protect: Registration & Legal Requirements
Basically, a trademark search, owner name, description of use, and trademark specimen are all legal prerequisites for trademark registration. These standards are overseen by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The five legal requirements for trademark registration are as follows:
#1. Conduct a Trademark Search
Trademark searches are essential for determining whether another company or person is using the same or similar trademark. Both graphics and wordmarks benefit from this procedure. And because it’s unlikely that you’d want another company to use your protected works, you should always carry out this operation before submitting an application.
One of the most difficult components of securing a trademark is conducting a trademark search. Hiring trademark attorneys, on the other hand, ensures that the trademark you seek is available and clear for usage.
#2. Owner’s Name
The person in charge of the type and quality of products and services supplied under the trademark is known as the trademark owner. A trademark can be owned by a person or a legal body, such as a corporation, trust, non-profit, or government agency.
#3. Entity Type & Nationality
Your application must also specify the type of owner who is attempting to register a trademark. While you are not required to be a US citizen to apply, it is necessary to reveal the trademark owner’s country or headquarters location.
The USPTO prefers that applicants use their trademarks rather than sit on intellectual property like logos, designs, service marks, brands, or phrases. As a result, you must specify whether you are already using it or plan to use it in the future.
Meanwhile, when registering a trademark, you have two choices:
Option 1: Intended Use:
Filing a “Intent-To-Use” application is sufficient to make a good faith statement that you intend to use the trademark. However, you must use it and file a “Statement of Use” form before registering a trademark.
Option 2: Actual use:
Applicants must explain which products will be covered by the trademark. This is a more popular choice than the first, and it must adhere to the trademark specimen criteria.
However, it can be difficult to keep track of this part of your trademark application. So, if you have any issues concerning the actual or intended use of your trademarks, consult with a trademark lawyer. They can also assist you in filing your documents.
#5. Trademark Specimen
If you file for a trademark based on actual use, you must submit a trademark specimen or sketch. A specimen is a real-life example of how you use a trademark.
The following are some examples of trademark specimens include;
- Magazine ads
Meanwhile, the most important aspect is to demonstrate how you use the brand. Image copies and other ornamental creations are not viable. The sample must be flat and no more than 8.5″ x 11″ in size.
Furthermore, if you intend to make use of your trademark in the future, you should also portray real use. For applications based on an “Intent To Use,” the drawing must portray the trademark in the manner in which the applicant wants to use it. A sketch is required even if a specimen is submitted.
Following confirmation, you can add the trademark symbol, (™), to the IP-protected works. You can use a computer application or a graphic designer to apply the trademark emblem.
Trademark Documents for Maintenance
Trademarks that are used commercially but not registered with the USPTO are known as common law trademarks. These trademarks aren’t required to be maintained, but they also don’t usually have nationwide protection. While federal trademark registration is indefinite, you will need to file certain paperwork to keep the trademark active.
5–6 Years After Registration:
- A Section 8 declaration confirming continuous use was necessary.
- If possible, a Section 15 petition for incontestability should also be submitted at this time.
- Section 8 declaration and Section 9 renewal are necessary 9-10 years after registration.
- Section 8 and Section 9 forms must be filed every ten years after registration.
If these documents are not filed in a timely way, the trademark will be abandoned.
What Are the Requirements for Renewing a Trademark Registration Legally?
The following are included in the maintenance files:
A Statement of Intent to Use
This is also known as a Section 8 Affidavit, and it verifies that the owner is still using the trademark in the same manner as when it was first given.
It states that your trademark cannot be contested (also known as Section 15 Affidavit). While not required, it provides additional protection in the event of future challenges or infringement.
A Renewal Request Form
It should be filed between the 9th and 10th year of your trademark registration date, and is also known as Section 9 Affidavit. This verifies that you are still using the mark as it was originally issued and extends your initial registration by ten years.
The Section 9 Affidavit should be filed in the same way for each subsequent registration period, and it will provide trademark protection for an indefinite amount of time (as long as you file the paperwork and have been using the trademark as it was issued).
As long as you own the registration, it is your responsibility to regulate and defend your trademark. That means you must oppose anyone or any firm attempting to file a trademark that may be infringing on your registration, and you must constantly monitor for infringement.
If you do not follow these guidelines, you risk losing your trademark rights.