Trademark – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Media Law and Ethics Glossary Terms

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others. It can be a word, phrase, symbol, logo, or a combination of these elements. Trademarks serve as a form of intellectual property protection, helping consumers to identify and distinguish the goods or services of one company from those of another.

How are trademarks protected?

Trademarks are protected through registration with the appropriate government agency, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Once registered, a trademark owner has exclusive rights to use the mark in connection with the goods or services for which it is registered. Trademarks can also be protected through common law rights, which are established through actual use of the mark in commerce.

What can be trademarked?

Almost anything that serves to identify and distinguish the goods or services of one company from those of another can be trademarked. This includes words, logos, slogans, colors, sounds, and even product packaging. However, the mark must be distinctive and not generic or descriptive of the goods or services being offered.

How long does a trademark last?

A trademark can last indefinitely, as long as it is properly maintained and renewed. In the United States, trademarks registered with the USPTO are initially valid for 10 years, with the option to renew for additional 10-year periods. As long as the mark continues to be used in commerce and is not abandoned, it can be protected indefinitely.

What is the difference between a trademark and a copyright?

While both trademarks and copyrights are forms of intellectual property protection, they serve different purposes. A trademark is used to protect a brand or logo that identifies the source of goods or services, while a copyright is used to protect original works of authorship, such as books, music, and artwork. Trademarks are used to prevent consumer confusion, while copyrights are used to prevent unauthorized copying of creative works.

How can a trademark be enforced?

A trademark owner can enforce their rights by taking legal action against infringers who use a confusingly similar mark in connection with similar goods or services. This can include sending cease and desist letters, filing a lawsuit for trademark infringement, or seeking damages for lost profits or harm to the brand’s reputation. In some cases, a trademark owner may also seek injunctive relief to stop the infringing use of the mark. Trademark enforcement is essential to protecting the value and integrity of a brand.