Trademarks and service marks can be a critical, and often overlooked, source of protection for anyone using a mark in connection with goods or services.
Trademarks and service marks generally refer to certain word(s), name(s), or symbol(s) that are currently used, or are intended to be used, to identify the source of goods or services and distinguish one seller’s goods or services from another’s. The term “trademark” refers to marks that relate to goods, and “service mark” refers to marks that relate to services. However, as a practical matter, the term “trademark” is commonly used to talk about both concepts.
While formal registration of a mark may not be essential to establish certain rights to the mark, federal registration can provide many benefits, including: (1) notice to the public of ownership of the mark, (2) certain legal presumptions of mark ownership nationwide, and (3) the exclusive rights to use the mark in connection with certain goods or services. Registration can also allow an owner to use the ® symbol after their mark, a valuable deterrent against those that may seek to improperly use the mark.
Trademarks and service marks are frequently confused with patents and copyrights. Patents involve a limited property right relating to an invention, and offer certain protections to the patent holder to protect against misuse. Typical examples of patented items include manufactured goods, machines, industrial processes, and chemical compositions. Copyrights offer certain rights and protections to the author of certain original works. Examples can include writings, sound, visual works, software, and designs.
The above is, of course, a very broad overview, and the federal and state rules applicable to individual circumstances can vary greatly. If you have questions for yourself or your business about trademark and service mark protections, it may be time to schedule a confidential consultation with the team at Bender, Levi, Larson & Associates S.C. We can work with you to answer your trademark and service mark questions and assist interested owners with the application process.