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Trademarks 101: The Basics


Traditional trademarks include words, phrases, symbols, logos, designs, or a combination of the foregoing, that identify and distinguish the source of products of one party from those of others. Some non-traditional types of trademarks may also include sounds, scents, textures, tastes, or holograms. Sometimes the term “trademark” is used to refer to both trademarks and service marks. However, a service mark, although analogous, is distinguishable in that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.

Unregistered Trademarks vs. Registered Trademarks

U.S. trademark rights are acquired from continuous use of the mark in commerce. Stated differently, when an individual or business begins using its trademark to provide a particular product or service, they acquire what is known as “common law” trademark rights which are limited legal protections afforded to “unregistered” trademarks. Legal protections for unregistered marks are restricted to the geographic region in which the marks are used. Whereas, federally registered marks receive nationwide trademark protection (in some instances, there may be territorial limitations) in addition to other significant benefits some of which are outline below.

Benefits of Federal Trademark Registration

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) issues registrations for federally registered trademarks. Although federal registration is not required, it offers additional benefits not afforded to unregistered trademarks. Therefore, the best way for an individual or business to protect their brand is to obtain a federal registration for their trademarks.

Benefits of a federal trademark registration include, but are not limited to:

  • Permission for the owner of the trademark to use the ® symbol after the mark

  • Establishes prima facie (presumption of validity) evidence of the validity of the trademark and facts stated in the registration certificate

  • Provides eligibility for monetary remedies in infringement lawsuit such as infringer’s profits, damages, litigation costs, and in some cases, treble (tripled) damages and attorneys’ fees

  • Gives owner the power to authorize U.S. Customs to block counterfeit imports

To review more details about these and other benefits, see Benefits of Federal Trademark Registration.

In sum, a trademark protects an individual or company’s brand. No registration is required to protect your company’s legal rights in the brand. However, federal registration provides you additional benefits and a more widespread range of protection in the event that another individual or company infringes your brand. Trademarks are extremely valuable assets for a company. Protect yours!

If you are interested in having a more detailed discussion about protecting your brand’s trademark, contact Cooper Legal for a consultation, and let’s secure your rights in your brand.

This blawg is provided by the firm for informational purposes only and may not be relied on as legal advice. If you have any questions related to your specific business needs, schedule a legal consultation today.

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