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Patents: Trademarks

This guide will provide basic information found online and at Baylor and can offer a good starting place to begin your patent research.

Types of Trademarks

Registered Trademarks - This refers to a trademark that has been registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

State Trademarks - This refers to a trademark that has been registered by a state (not the USPTO) and are valid only in the state in which they were registered.

Common Law Trademarks - These are trademarks that are not registered by the USPTO or a state.  Trademarks do not have to be registered.  A company or individual can establish trademark rights by simply using the trademark in commerce.  Jurisdiction over theses trademarks is held by states.

 

Symbols

There are 3 symbols used to indicate trademark protection:

TM - (Trademark) This is used to indicate trademark protection for a product.  Registration with the USPTO is not necessary in order to use this symbol, but the symbol must be in use in commerce or there needs to be a "good faith" intention to do so.  The TM can be used by state trademarks and common law trademarks.

SM - (Service Mark) This is used to identify one service provider from another service provider. Again, registration with the USPTO is not necessary in order to use this symbol, but the symbol must be in use in commerce or there needs to be a "good faith" intention to do so.

® - This symbol indicates that the trademark has been registered with the USPTO .  Only federally registered trademarks are allowed to use this symbol.

What is a Trademark?

trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. 

service mark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods.

 Unlike patents and copyrights, trademarks do not expire after a set term of years.  Trademark rights come from actual “use”. Therefore, a trademark can last forever - so long as an individual or business continues to use the mark in commerce to indicate the source of goods and services, and as log as fees are paid and documents are filed at regular intervals.

There are many different types of distinctive marks that are classified as trademarks.  A company’s name, a sporting team’s mascot and famous singer’s lyrics are all considered trademarks. 

Examples:
  • Name -  Whether it is Chanel or Ralph Lauren, a name can be a trademark if it helps to identify a company and set them apart from their competition.  One example is Adidas which is a portmanteau formed from "Adi" (a nickname for Adolf) and "Das" (from "Dassler").
  • Symbol - The McDonalds golden arches are a well known symbol.  Every time they are seen, people know this is McDonalds.  Even though the name is not on the arches, this symbol represents McDonalds and sets them apart from other fast food restaurants.
  • Figure/Mascot - The Geico gecko is a good example here.  When you see this little gecko, he reminds you of Geico.  The same would go for the red/blue bears that are identified with Charmin bathroom tissue.
  • Catchphrase - A catchphrase is a slogan that a company uses to advertise products or services. Remember "Where's the beef?"  This is a catchphrase that originated with Wendy's.  
  • Lyrics - A songwriters lyrics are trademarks.  A company who has used a songwriter's lyrics as part of an ad campaign will compensate the writer for the use of his work. Through very successful ad campaigns, companies become identified with a particular song.

Because a company's trademarks are tied so closely with them, they are a valuable piece of intellectual property and require protection.  Trademark protection gives a company or person the right to exclude others from using the trademark or a mark so closely resembling the trademark as to be confusing to the general public.

  

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