What is a trademark?
A trademark is a mark under which a business trades. It is a symbol, logo, word, or slogan that represents a company or its products or services. If you want to protect your trademark, you have to apply at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
You can trademark names of companies or products; words or slogans that can relate to brands or marketing campaigns; logos or symbols that identify brands; sounds, colors, and even scents that are specific to brands.
But the mark has to be distinctive - that is, not similar to an already registered trademark in a similar business area. You can’t also trademark a simple name, like “Ice Cream” for ice cream.
Once you register your trademark, you gain legal protection for that mark for that business area. No other businesses can use your protected mark in that business area. Once there is trademark infringement, you can collect penalties from unauthorized trademark users.
A trademark lasts up to ten years, but you can file for unlimited extensions. With your trademark, you can use the registered trademark symbol (®). You can also use your trademark in several other legal scenarios, such as licensing.
A common misunderstanding with trademarks is confusing them with other types of intellectual property. While trademarks allow companies to distinguish their brand from others on the market, copyrights focus on artistic endeavors, while patents protect technology and technical innovation.
For example, a software company can obtain a trademark for their name and logo, file for a patent on the functions of their software product, and also copyright their lines of code. Or more commonly, a record company can protect their name with a trademark, but copyright their music.
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