A trademark is a symbol, sign, design, phrase, or word that denotes a certain product or service belonging to a specific brand and legally differentiates it from competitors. It helps customers recognize a company’s products and services, associate them with a particular business, and protect the intellectual property of their original creator.
In this article, we’ll review the importance of registering a trademark and its types and make the difference between trademark and copyright clear. Then, we’ll talk about how to register a trademark in the US.
Why is it important to register your trademark?
A trademark helps a company label its products or services and single out them among others. It’s also crucial for customers since a special sign, design, emblem, or word enables them to find goods of a specific brand. These aren’t all reasons to register a trademark. When you start your own brand, it’s critical to comply with all legal procedures to protect your intellectual property and avoid problems that might emerge.
Registering your mark provides you with legal protection that reduces the possibility of unfair competition. However, if someone dares to do it, you’ll be able to prove that it’s illegal since you have exclusive rights that your certificate can confirm. The mark is necessary to ensure that your company is unique and there are no other businesses with similar symbols, signs, or phrases.
In a nutshell, your company is secure with a registered trademark, and you can prevent somebody from making use of your essential elements or benefiting from your brand’s reputation and success. You also have the legal right to take action against other companies that intend to use your intellectual property for personal gain.
Now that you know why it’s crucial to have your trademark registered, let’s explore its types.
Types of trademarks
Trademarks take care of the ownership of products and services that belong to a certain person or business. They can be different based on the industry a company operates in. We distinguish five main types.
- Generic mark. It is when a brand name becomes a generic term due to its popularity. As a result, the brand is synonymous with a certain product or service. This happens because a company that offers certain products builds strong associations with the brand itself. Examples include Xerox, Taser, and Google.
- Descriptive mark. It describes a product or service. The mark that has a descriptive character can’t be protected by trademark rights since a descriptive mark can’t help identify a source of goods or services.
- Suggestive mark. This trademark doesn’t describe a product but invites customers to associate a brand name with a product or service it provides. Microsoft, Netflix, and Android are bright examples of such marks.
- Fanciful Mark. It’s a made-up term that doesn’t have any special meaning. Fanciful trademarks are created to serve solely as trademarks and don’t have a meaning in everyday life. However, before making up a new term, a company should explore the reaction of its target audience. Entrepreneurs need to determine whether the word is easy enough to pronounce, short, and easy to recollect. Examples of trademarks with the highest level of protection include Kodak, Exxon, Lexus, and Verizon.
- Arbitrary Mark. This type of trademark consists of a word or several words that have their own meaning in everyday life. However, when a company uses them to name products or services, they are unrelated. For example, Apple sells famous electronics and is named after a fruit. The products this brand offers are not only expensive and high quality but, ironically, are also inedible.
Now that you know the types, let’s make the difference between a trademark and copyright clear.
Trademark vs. copyright
Sometimes it can be confusing to find the difference between trademark and copyright because they both protect the rights of a company’s source owner. To enable you to distinguish between these two concepts, let’s consider each of them separately.
Trademark is an intellectual property that includes a sign, word, symbol, brand name, design, or phrase and is used to show that a product or service belongs to a particular company. It helps customers and companies identify a brand and differentiate its goods from competitors. It protects the visual elements of a brand or individual who creates and develops them.
A registered trademark prevents others from using certain visual assets owned by a specific brand. It also hampers other businesses from creating and registering a mark similar to the existing one. In the US, if you see the ® symbol, it means that a trademark is registered. At the same time, if you notice the ™, it denotes an unregistered one.
Copyright is the legal right to reproduce intellectual property owned by creators of goods and people whom they give exclusive permission to do it. Companies can copyright literary and musical works, sound recordings, paintings, films, software, designs, etc. Copyright owners can permit individuals or businesses to copy their intellectual property for an agreed amount of money. However, brand elements like logos, slogans, and company names aren’t included in this list and aren’t amenable to copy.
It’s time to dive deeper into how to make a trademark yours legally.
How to register a trademark in the US
If you want to protect your trademark and have legal rights to it, it’s pivotal to register it. Read on to figure out how to do it in the US.
- Check if you can register your mark. Before filling out the application form and sending it, find out whether your trademark can be registered. For this purpose, you need to check if there are similar trademarks registered. Second, check the USPTO’s requirements to ensure that your trademark complies with them.
- Get ready with the application form. Once you have the information that your mark is safe, apply for its registration. The trademark you need to register can be for use in commerce (this means that at the time of document submission, you have already used your mark) or for use in the future (this signifies that at the time of submission, you haven’t used it yet but will do so in the future). Get ready with the application that includes your name, address, type of legal entity, citizenship, name, and address of your legal representative, an image of your trademark and its explanation, goods you want to use the trademark with, date when it was used for the first time (only if you have already used it), a declaration signed by a legal representative, and a certain fee.
- Send your application. If you want to go through the process of registration online, make use of the Trademark Electronic Application System. After submitting your form, you’ll obtain a receipt. If everything is right and your trademark is approved, it will later appear in the USPTO’s Official Gazette. If you’ve already used your trademark before, it means that you will receive a Notice of Allowance. Once you receive it, prepare and send a statement of use along with the evidence of using the mark before. If approved, an attorney will register your trademark and issue a certificate.
- Comply with the rules to renew registration. Remember to pay all the necessary fees and file your documents to keep your trademark. You should also send a Declaration of Continued Use every sixth and tenth year.
Congrats, now you know about the types and importance of trademarks. If you want to register your mark, make use of our instructions and recommendations.
- In this article, you’ll find the benefits of registering your trademark.
- This article defines the term and tells about the difference between a trademark, patent, and copyright.
- This article uncovers the types of trademarks.
Last Updated: 06.12.2021