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What Is A Trademark

What Is a Trademark?

Joshua Julien Brouard

Joshua Julien Brouard

02 February 20243 min read

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What Is a Trademark?

What is a trademark?

A trademark is more than a mere stamp of approval from the government, stating that a particular brand identifier is your own. A trademark serves to protect your legacy and secure your brand in the face of bad actors and the highly competitive global market.

Want to go into more detail about the question of what is a trademark? Read on:

What are the different types of trademarks?

Did you know that you can trademark sounds? You can probably think of a few popular examples of sounds that are likely protected.

(Homer Simpson's "D'oh!" has been trademarked by 20th Century Studios.)

Of course, you can also trademark words, names, logos, or slogans. But there's much more:

  • Unique colors can be protected by brands — think "UPS Brown."
  • Distinctive designs can be trademarked; the McDonald's golden arches have been protected by the brand.
  • You can trademark moving visuals if they help distinguish your business. Consider the Microsoft Windows motion trademark logo.

How do trademarks work?

Trademarks protect business owners like you and ensure that that which distinguishes your brand from others remains your own.

You also get options should someone infringe on your trademark.

They're an absolutely vital component of any company's intellectual property portfolio.

But another question arises from this: how do you protect your trademark?

(1) Protection under the common law

Many business owners may already be protected under the common law.

(Even if they don't realize it.)

This protection is provided when you use your trademark in commerce.

However, a common law trademark is limited. Protection under the common law will only protect you in the area where you conduct business.

And that's why many opt for full federal trademark registration.

(2) Federal trademark registration

The trademark protection provided by registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides comprehensive protection over the entire United States.

According to trademark law, a registered mark affords you various ways to protect yourself in the case of trademark infringement.

You can learn more about federal trademark registration on our blog — I've written about it, too!

(3) State-level trademark protection

Alternatively, if you don't anticipate needing country-wide protection, you can file a trademark for just the state you live in.

Your choice will depend on your strategic goals. For example, you may want to file with the WIPO if you're looking to register your trademark internationally.

(4) International trademark registration

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides the Madrid System, a way to file just one trademark application for trademark applications in over 120 countries worldwide.

If you anticipate a global expansion of your brand, then this is a path that you may want to consider.

Are trademarks different from copyrights or patents?

Trademarks, copyrights, and patents are all forms of intellectual property — but they're not the same.

While trademarks protect unique identifiers of your brand (such as a logo, name, word, or slogan), copyrights protect creative works (such as songs, books, or movies).

And patents protect inventions, which are processes or products that are new.

Ready to get your trademark protected?

While not everyone may feel that they need federal trademark protection, ask yourself the following:

  1. Do you have plans to expand outside your immediate area?
  2. Will brands working under a similar trademark to yours in a different area impact your customer retention or brand image?
  3. Do you plan to sell products online to different states?

If you've answered yes to any of the above questions, then trademark registration may be for you.

Ready to protect your trademark or service mark? Watch the video below, created by trademark attorney Derrick Davis:


FAQs

How do you create a trademark?

To create a trademark, apply with the relevant authority, like the USPTO, including a unique logo, word, or symbol.

Who owns a trademark?

The entity that registers the trademark typically owns it, whether it's an individual, company, or organization.

Can two people own a trademark?

Yes, two or more individuals or entities can jointly own a trademark, sharing rights and responsibilities.

What is an example of a trademark?

Nike's "swoosh" symbol and Coca-Cola's script logo are examples of trademarks.

Can I sell without a trademark?

Yes, you can sell products or services without a trademark, but having one can protect your brand identity and prevent others from using it unlawfully.

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Joshua J. Brouard brings a rich and varied background to his writing endeavors. With a bachelor of commerce degree and a major in law, he possesses an affinity for tackling business-related challenges. His first writing position at a startup proved instrumental in cultivating his robust business acumen, given his integral role in steering the company's expansion. Complementing this is his extensive track record of producing content across diverse domains for various digital marketing agencies.