I hear lots of people talking about trademarking their brand and some people using trademark symbols without knowing what they mean. This article is not meant to provide legal advice rather to give you a little information about the process and the actual meaning of the symbols and terms that we frequently see tossed around.
According to Wikipedia, a trademark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities.
A trademark is designated by the following symbols:
- ™ is an unregistered trademark used to promote or brand goods
- ® is a registered trademark also used to promote or brand goods
Typically a trademark will be a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image or some combination that is associated with a brand. If someone who is unauthorized to use your registered trademark does so, legal proceedings can begin to protect your rights. However, an unregistered trademark has limited protection. For example, McDonald’s is internationally protected as a registered trademark while a local Burger Joint may only have regional protection or protection within their service area if they are unregistered.
Interestingly, trademarks can be established by registration with the trademarks office in your jurisdiction, however as a form of property, some jurisdictions allow them to be established through actual use while other jurisdictions allow a combination of the two forms. Be aware that some jurisdictions don’t recognize marketplace use as a form of establishment so make sure you check it out before making assumptions that your brand is trademarked because it will limit your ability to make legal claims against the use of your mark. Contrary to what some may believe, the right to use a trademark lies with the entity who is the “first to file” for the use of the mark instead of the “first to use” it.
So… what is the process to register your trademark?
- You must apply for the registration by submitting an application detailing information about your respective trademark
- You application will then be reviewed by an examining attorney in the United States Patent and Trademark Office who will make sure your goods or services are identified properly and cannot be confused with another product or service
- It can take up to six months for your application to be reviewed, so be patient
- If no problems are found with your application (issues will be communicated to you so that you have a chance to address them), your application will be published for opposition which provides thirty days for anyone opposing your application to come forward
- If no one comes forward during this time period, your mark will be registered
Once your trademark is registered you may be able to protect your mark within your jurisdiction from use of your exact mark as well as the unauthorized use of a mark that is similar in color or symbolism which could cause consumer confusion.
I hope this information helps… for more detailed explanations or to begin the registration process, please contact your attorney.