A Trademark is a distinctive sign, design, or expression that identifies certain products or services produced or provided by a specific person or enterprise.
- Common-Law Trademark: A trademark that is recognized without the need for registration.
- Registered Trademark: A trademark that has been accepted for registration with a particular jurisdiction's national or regional trademark office.
- Trademark Infringement: Use of a registered trademark in a way that does not comply with the legal rights of the registered trademark owner.
It is confusingly similar to the previous trademark adopted and used (for similar goods or services) by the owner(s)/holder(s). The likelihood of confusion created can be shown (in a court of law) that the infringer's use of the mark creates an idea in the mind of the customer that the infringer's products are the products or services of the owner(s)/holder(s); or that the infringer somehow is associated, affiliated, connected, approved, authorized or sponsored by them, when in fact they are not.
Trademarks and Patents are a form of Intellectual Property (IP), any creation or invention resulting from creativity. It is protected by U.S. laws such as the Federal Trademarks Act of 1946, as amended (the Lanham Act), and the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is responsible for administering all laws relating to trademarks and patents in the U.S.
Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are often confused, but they are different. Trademarks are governed by state and federal law, while the federal Copyright Act protects copyrights. Patents are regulated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Trade dress is also protection granted for trademark infringement.
An individual or company that owns a trademark, service mark, or trade dress for the goods or services they provide has special protections under the laws of the United States. These rights are gained by registering the marks with the appropriate government agencies.
A mark can be registered with the Patent and Trademark Office by filing the appropriate paperwork regarding the type of mark. Protection for a mark can be acquired either:
- by being the first to file an application for a mark with the PTO or
- by being the first to use the mark in commerce, which protects at the state level by statute and common law.
In addition, marks can be registered with agencies protecting foreign countries.