In the business world, trademarks are an important advertising tool that allows businesses to distinguish themselves from their competitors. In doing so, trademarks can create a strong relationship in the minds of the consumers between a specific service or good and those who provide the goods and services. A trademark can be a word or combination of words, a distinctive symbol or design, or even a unique sound that distinguishes the source of a product of one party from another. It is also possible to trademark a distinctive packaging, building designs, or color combinations. Famous examples of trademarks include the NBC (National Broadcasting Company) chimes first used in 1961 to identify their programming, the Microsoft Windows logo, and the Coca-Cola brand name. Due to the value a trademark has to a business, the government has set up trademark laws to protect the intellectual property of a business.
Trademark law consists of both federal statutes and state laws. Similar to a patent, trademark law gives owners of a trademark exclusive right over it. In doing so, registered trademarks cannot be used on a product without permission from the owners of the trademark. Individuals who use a registered trademark without permission from the owner can face legal consequences as stated by the current trademark law of the United States. Violators can also be sued by the trademark owners for financial and image damages.
The federal trademark law is protected by the federal government under the Lanham Act. Under the Lanham Act, a person can apply to register their trademark at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If the trademark is given approval by an examiner, then it is published in the official Gazette of the Trademark Office in order to inform other parties of the pending approval. State trademark law, on the other hand, protects a trademark under the law of unfair competition. However, registration is not needed in order to be protected by a state’s trademark laws. States’ trademark laws differ from state to state, nevertheless, most states have adopted a version similar to the Model Trademark Bill.
Advantages of obtaining a federal trademark registration include:
Rights to sue in federal court on issues relating to a trademark
Gives the registrant legal ownership of a trademark.
Provides a public notice of the claim of ownership of a trademark
Prevents the importation of foreign goods that infringe on your trademark