What is a Trademark?

Copyrights, trademark and patent are the three main components of the intellectual property law. Patent protects inventions as it gives the inventor a monopoly on the manufacture, use or sale of his innovation. While copyright protects creative works such as writing, visual art music and audio recordings from unauthorized reproduction, a trade dress is the look and feel of a product, its shape packaging and design that signifies the source of the product to consumers. On the other hand, trademarks are brand names which are labeled to products and services. The trademark is a distinguished sign like a word, a phrase, a symbol or a combination of these elements.

A trademark is used in business to indicate the source of the brand in order to distinguish and identify it in the market. It protects the customers by preventing the public confusion as to the origin or quality of a product, in addition to rewarding the brand owner by maintaining his business with a successful reputation. Unlike most countries, the American law protects a brand even if it’s not registered for its trademark, and it is known as the common law trademark rights. As the trademark ownership belongs to the first seller, who uses and trades the brand in the markets, a trademark infringement could happen when a likelihood of confusion exists between trademarks which mean that the brands are very similar that consumers would mistakenly believe the two products come from the same source. In this case, the fake brand has to stop misleading the market and is liable to pay damages to the original brand owner. However, trademark protection is not absolute as it is subject to certain limits such as the trademark abandonment, geographic limitation and the fair use of the brand by a third party.

When people have a product, they get confused as to how a trademark works. A trademark is simply an identification of the source of goods and services. It’s not the product itself, it is the source of a product. For example, Tide laundry detergent, it is the maker of the laundry detergent it’s not the actual detergent itself. Although, often trademarks, people come to identify them so closely with the product, they may substitute the name of the trademark for the product, but it’s supposed to be a brand and represent the source. You obtain trademark rights from actual use in commerce or by registering your trademark with your country’s Patent and Trademark Office. You can register your trademark with what’s called an intent to use or ITU trademark application before you have any sales or when you’ve just thought of your idea for a name. For example, many times people register their trademarks in advance before their product is fully developed or before they’re ready to do sales. In fact, people will often check online on the intent to use trademarks because they are publicly available to see what other companies are doing. In fact, the Apple stores were known before the app announced them because they had several trademarks on file for intent to use for the Apple Store and other names related to the store. It’s a good way to keep a track of what your competitors are doing. The best trademarks that you can make or file for arbitrary, don’t have anything to do with the product itself. For example, Apple is associated with computers now but apple itself has nothing to do with computers, kodak associated with film very strongly but kodak was a made-up word that the creator of the trademark had a strong name and strong sound and so used that as a trademark. A trademark such as Microsoft is all the world-famous trademark but it is not the strongest trademark because there are a lot of companies that have micro blank or blank soft in their titles because it’s not arbitrary. So, if you are going to have a trademark for your company you can do it in advance and you should think of a name that is arbitrary and doesn’t describe the product so closely.

Ordinary trademarks are distinctive signs helping in identifying the goods or services of one trader over those of another. A sign basically consists of words, pictures, logos or a combination of all these elements. Now, to qualify as a trademark, there must be a sign which meets three clear criteria. These criteria are, the sign must be capable of being represented graphically, it should be distinct enough to distinguish the goods or services of one undertaking from another and it should be capable of acting as a badge of origin of the marked goods or services. Modern trademarks are the building blocks of today’s global brands which are helping consumers to identify and purchase products and services with confidence and they are based on a clear understanding of the origin of the goods plus on the reputation of the organisation behind the trade mark.

Trademarks are basically of two types; they are registered and unregistered. A registered trademark, which is formally noted by a R in a circle, requires an application for registration to a national intellectual property office. The R circle can be used only when the trademark has passed its registration assessment and has been granted. Unregistered trademarks come up where no formal registration has taken place. They are basically a statement from the mark user that they consider the respective mark to be associated with their trading activity. Unregistered trademarks are often written with the letters TM. They afford less protection than that of registered marks and also, they can be more difficult to enforce if they are infringed.

For Universities, trademarks are always used to protect the name of the University or of its various schools and branches or departments if they have established independent reputations. Trademarks are used to protect the names of University projects or programmes which may have developed valuable reputation or distinct identities in their different fields. Non-traditional trademarks are also registered in some countries which are based on their distinguishing features.

We hope, by this point, this article must have helped you understand what trademark is.

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