A trademark is a distinctive phrase, symbol, or word that distinguishes the identity of a product or a service. Trademarks come in various forms; it can be a logo, like the Nike Swoosh or it can be a slogan, like McDonalds’ “I’m Lovin’ it.” There is also something called trade dress which is a type of trademark, however, trade dress allows the consumer to easily recognize the product through the product’s unique appearance. One example of this is the classic Coca-Cola bottle. The long tall glass bottle has a special shape making it easily identifiable to the public. The reason trademarks are so important is that they provide owners with legal rights so that other companies cannot create and use a similar mark.
In order for something to be considered a trademark it must fulfill two elements:
1. It must be distinctive.
2. It must be used in commerce.
Once the mark fulfills these two elements, it may be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It will then be protected for ten years and may be renewed for an unlimited number of ten-year periods. However, the registration provides only nationwide effect—not international. If you do want international protection, you must file protection in each country that wish to do business in.
It should be worth noting that getting a trademark registered is a responsibility. You have to remain diligent as your business grows to make sure that competitors are not using your brands. If you don’t protect your mark, you risk losing not only your competitive edge, but also the trademark registration. Do you ever say the word Aspirin, Elevator, Escalator? All of these were trademarks that were not protected and thus became generic in the English language. The previous owners of those trademarked words can no longer monetize on the words.
Interested in getting a trademark in the US or abroad? Contact us and lets get you started!