For business owners and service providers, a trademark is an essential component of their business plan and marketing strategy. You know you need to protect your product or service, but it's not as cut-and-dry as it sounds. There's a lot of choices to make, but this guide can help you select the trademark that is best for you.
First, what is a trademark?
A trademark is a way of distinguishing the goods and products that you offer from other competing products. It also serves as a way of identifying the source of the good or product. A trademark can either be a word, phrase, symbol, logo or name.
Do you need to register your trademark?
It is not required that you register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Many business owners use a Common Law trademark, which is a trademark that is repeatedly used in commerce by an individual organization or business. A non-registered trademark must be identified as TM or SM.
What are the advantages of registering?
While not mandatory, there are several advantages to registering your trademark with the USPTO. Those include:
- An online listing in the USPTO database.
- The ability and right to use the ® symbol.
- The ability to take legal action if another organization uses the trademark that you have registered.
- Legal ownership of the trademark and exclusive right to use your trademark in the United States.
Types of mark protections available
Once you have learned about the advantages of creating a registered trademark, you will want to select the type of trademark that is best for your business. The types of trademarks include:
- Service Marks — Service marks are trademarks that are specifically created for services offered, rather than goods that are being provided.
- Generic Trademarks — A generic trademark is a relatively weak trademark, because it is simple. The same words and phrases used in a generic trademark are so common that other businesses have to be able to use them in order to describe their own products or services.
- Descriptive Trademarks — Descriptive trademarks also are considered weak trademarks, and are available in two subcategories: descriptive or merely descriptive trademarks. They are trademarks taken out on words and phrases that are used to describe the goods and services that a business provides.
- Suggestive Trademarks — Suggestive trademarks are considered a strong type of trademark that can be fully protected by the law. A suggestive trademark comes into play when the name of a product or service suggests or implies a specific result.
- Collective Marks — Collective marks are trademarks that are used to represent a group or organization.
- Certification Marks — Certification marks provide consumers with confidence that a product or service has met the qualifications needed for a specific type of certification.
If you have any questions as to what type of trademark will be best for your business, then the best thing to do is consult an attorney who specializes in trademark and patent law. For more information, contact our law firm today.