What Exactly Does a Trademark Protect?

If you are a business owner, you might have heard of the term “trademark” and wondered what it means and why it is important. A trademark is a symbol, phrase, word, or design that distinguishes your goods or services from those of others in the market. It is a form of intellectual property that can help you protect your brand identity and reputation.

But what exactly does a trademark protect? And how can you register and maintain one? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more.

a man with a hat on backwards and holding a phone while scratching his face

If you are a business owner, you might have heard of the term “trademark” and wondered what it means and why it is important. A trademark is a symbol, phrase, word, or design that distinguishes your goods or services from those of others in the market. It is a form of intellectual property that can help you protect your brand identity and reputation.

But what exactly does a trademark protect? And how can you register and maintain one? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more.

What Does a Trademark Protect?

A trademark protects the following aspects of your brand:

  • The origin of your goods or services: A trademark helps customers recognize you as the source of the goods or services they are buying. For example, when you see the Golden Arches logo, you know that it represents McDonald’s and its products. A trademark also helps you prevent others from using a similar mark that could confuse or deceive customers about the origin of their goods or services.

  • The quality of your goods or services: A trademark helps you maintain and enhance the quality of your goods or services by creating a positive association between your brand and your customers. For example, when you see the Nike Swoosh logo, you expect high-quality athletic products from the company. A trademark also helps you prevent others from using a similar mark that could tarnish or dilute your brand reputation by offering inferior or different goods or services.

  • The goodwill of your business: A trademark helps you build and sustain the goodwill of your business by creating a loyal customer base and attracting new customers. For example, when you see the Starbucks logo, you might feel a sense of familiarity and trust with the company and its products. A trademark also helps you prevent others from using a similar mark that could harm or exploit your goodwill by taking advantage of your established customer base.

How to Register and Maintain a Trademark?

To register and maintain a trademark in the United States, you need to follow these steps:

  • Selecting a mark: The first step is to choose a mark that is distinctive, meaning that it can identify your goods or services and distinguish them from those of others. You should also avoid choosing a mark that is generic, descriptive, or confusingly similar to existing marks.

  • Filing an application: The next step is to file an application with the USPTO to register your mark. You need to provide information such as your name, address, contact details, description of your goods or services, drawing and specimen of your mark, filing basis, and fee. 

  • Examination of your application: After you file your application, it will eventually be assigned to an examining attorney who will review it. The examining attorney may issue an office action if there are any issues or objections with your application. You will have three months to respond to the office action or your application will be abandoned.

  • Publication for opposition: If your application meets all the requirements, it will be published for opposition in the Official Gazette, a weekly online publication of the USPTO. This gives an opportunity for anyone who believes that they would be damaged by the registration of your mark to file an opposition within 30 days of the publication date. If no opposition is filed, or if the opposition is resolved in your favor, your application will proceed to the next step.

  • Registration: If your application is based on actual use of your mark in commerce, you will receive a certificate of registration after the publication period ends. If your application is based on intent to use your mark in commerce, you will receive a notice of allowance after the publication period ends. You will then have six months to file a statement of use showing that you have started using your mark in commerce, or request an extension of time. Once you file a statement of use, you will receive a certificate of registration.

  • Maintenance: To keep your registration alive, you need to file certain documents and fees at regular intervals. You need to file a declaration of use and/or excusability of nonuse between the fifth and sixth year after registration, and every 10 years after registration. You also need to file a renewal application every 10 years after registration.

Conclusion

A trademark is a valuable asset for any business that wants to protect its brand identity and reputation in the market. A trademark protects the origin, quality, and goodwill of your goods or services from unauthorized use by others. To register and maintain a trademark in the United States, you need to follow the steps outlined in this blog post. Contact us if you need more information or assistance.