Common Trademark Questions & Answers

As information about your products and services becomes readily available through the internet and other media sources your company’s products and services become available to an ever increasing client base. But this availability of information also makes it easier for people to “use” or successful product to sell there own products. A common way to protect your business assets is through the trademark process. This article will provide some basic information regarding trademark process.

What is a trademark?

The first question is obviously what is a trademark. A trademark is any word, phrase, symbol or device that distinguishes one company’s goods or services from those of its competitors. A trademark is often referred to as a “brand name”. Examples of well-known trademarks include the word Windows for Microsoft’s software, Nikes Swoosh Design for, and McDonalds “Golden Arches”. The only limit to what can be trademarked is that a trademark must distinguish your company’s product from your competitors. Therefore you can not trademark a generic term that your competitors need to use to describe their goods or services, like computers for computers or food for fast food.

If I form a company do I own the trade name?

No. Trademarks should not be confused with corporate or trade names. While the forming a company gives you the exclusive right to use the name for a company in Arizona it does not provide you with any trademark protection. However, a corporate name that meets the requirements for trademark protection, i.e. that is used in commerce to distinguish the company’s goods or services from its competitors, can also become a trademark and should be registered as such. Trademark registration is a different process than trade name registration.

Should our company register its trademarks?

The simple answer is yes. If your mark has value you should protect its value by registering the mark. You take many steps to protect your company’s valuable property such as buying insurance or installing a security system. Registering your trade name is another step you can take to protect your business property.

Additionally, registering your trademark may also increase the value of your company, particularly the goodwill of the business. When calculating the value of your business Accountants have formulas to incorporate the value of trademarks into the value of the business.

How do I protect my trademark?

The best way to protect your mark is to let the world know your mark is your mark – if someone does not realize that you are claiming trademark rights in a mark, they may be able to adopt it innocently and keep on using it even after you discover their use.

The best way to ensure that everyone knows about your mark is to register it. BY registering your mark you give “constructive notice”, and no one can claim that they didn’t know you were using the mark if they began using it after your registration. You may apply to register the mark with the Patent and Trademark office as soon as you have begun to use the mark in interstate commerce or foreign, or if you have the intention to do so.

Whether or not the mark is registered, you should be sure to give proper notice that you reserve your trademark rights directly on your product. You do this by placing a “tm” or “TM” (the r-in-a-circle mark) next to the trademark when you use it in connection with the goods. However, you may only use the “TM” if the trademark is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Once you’ve let people know about your trademark rights, you must be sure to enforce it. Thus, if you find out that someone else is using your mark you must inform them of your rights and demand that they stop. If you fail to do so the other party may acquire rights to the mark, too, which might in time come to supercede yours.

How long is my trademark valid?

Generally , your common law rights in a trademark continue as long as you use the mark. However, federal registrations are only valid for ten years. The trademark may be renewed over and over, so long as you are still using the mark in interstate commerce.

While this article provides some basic trademark information, it in no way contains all there is to know about trademarks. If you are considering applying for a trademark make sure you consult with an attorney familiar with the process to ensure that your registration is handled properly.

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