A trademark is a word, phrase, logo, design, symbol, character, or device (or any combination thereof) that is used in connection with the advertising and sale of products and services, and that serve to indicate the source of those products and services. The most famous trademarks have immediate brand recognition and instantly convey the intended standard of quality to consumers.
The GOOGLE and LEGO trademarks are relatively simple in that they consist of only a single word presented in a stylized font. On the other hand, the BURGER KING and KRAFT FOODS trademarks combine the company name with a pretty distinctive design element. Other companies, like General Electric and United Parcel Service, blend their initials into a unique and memorable logo.
Oftentimes, trademarks incorporate no words at all and are solely comprised of a symbol. For example, the Chevrolet “bowtie” and the Apple logo are two famous trademarks that are immediately recognized by consumers and are known to be exclusively associated with those two companies. The same is true regarding the “golden arches” used by McDonald’s and the “swoosh” used by Nike.
Trademarks can also consist of a device, such as a sound (the Green Giant’s “Ho Ho Ho” and the Yahoo! “yodel”) or a color (Owens Corning pink insulation and Fiskars orange scissors). Furthermore, a trademark may be a product configuration, product packaging design, or even the overall “look and feel” of an establishment where services are provided.
The Importance of a Trademark
Product manufacturers and service providers use trademarks to distinguish their goods and services from those offered by their competitors. Trademarks also embody the qualities and characteristics of the products and services with which they are used. As such, trademarks are used in all types of advertising and marketing, exhibited on commercial buildings, displayed on product packaging, and even stamped or printed on products themselves.
A commercial enterprise grows and prospers by building a quality reputation and setting itself apart. Without a trademark, it would be nearly impossible for businesses, organizations, and associations to establish a consistent and visible presence in the marketplace. After all, consumers rely heavily on trademarks to easily identify and compare products and services when making their purchasing decisions.
Protecting a Trademark
Under the law, a trademark is considered to be a form of property. Rights to a trademark may be established through the use of the mark in commerce and by registering the mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Federal trademark registration is important because it provides the owner of the trademark with prima facie evidence of (1) the validity of the registered trademark, (2) ownership of the registered trademark, and (3) the nationwide right to use the registered trademark in commerce in connection with the products/services recited in the trademark registration. These benefits are extraordinarily helpful should the trademark owner ever have to pursue or defend a trademark infringement lawsuit.
Needless to say, trademarks are extremely valuable. In fact, when properly promoted and diligently protected, trademarks will likely be the most valuable assets a business will ever own. If you have always wondered “what is a trademark, and how can I obtain such an asset?,” then feel free to give me a call at (314) 749-4059.