What is a trademark?

Many individuals in business may benefit from better understanding the basics of trademarks. Some entrepreneurs just getting started may wonder what a trademark is, while others may be considering the protections trademarks offer. You may have considered a trademark and wondered if it is right for you and your needs.

In general, trademarks protect brand names and logos found on goods or used for services that a business offers. Trademarks are typically used to identify that specific goods or services come from a particular source such as the entrepreneur's company or business.

Once the entrepreneur has decided that trademark protection is the right step for the business, a trademark must be carefully and thoughtfully selected. Not all trademarks may be registered or protected. It is important to consider how difficult a trademark may be to protect when selecting a trademark, as the business is responsible for enforcing the trademark. The ease or difficulty with which the trademark can be protected will depend on the strength of the mark selected.

It is also important to determine the format the mark will be in, what goods and services it will apply to and to conduct a thorough database search to determine if the mark, or a similar mark, is already in use. The proposed mark may be similar in wording and design and already in use for similar goods or services. Because the application fee for to register a trademark is not refundable, it is important to conduct a thorough search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's database before preparing and filing your application.

The process of understanding what trademark, patent and copyright protections an entrepreneur and business needs can be complex. Each, however, offers important protections to a business which is why it can be useful to understand how each works and can also help an entrepreneur decide if a trademark is the right step.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, "Is a trademark application right for you?" accessed on Feb. 10, 2015

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