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Understanding how trademarks are defined and used

It is understandable how people can get confused with the differences between a trademark, service mark, a patent and a copyright, but there are distinct differences between these and it’s often important for Fort Wayne business professionals to be familiar with them. In today’s business world, intellectual property protection is increasingly important but also commonly misunderstood.

A trademark includes words, names, symbols or even devices, or any combination of these, used or intended to be used as “identifiers” in commerce. Trademarks usually identify or distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another, or they may identify the source of goods. In any event, establishing a trademark protects a businessperson by providing ownership of the trademark, which is essentially their brand name.

To determine whether your mark is not one of the many registered trademarks already in existence, you can go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website and search their Trademark Electronic Search System, or TESS. The USPTO site also has application forms to register your own trademark. Interestingly, the use of a “TM” is not governed by any federal regulations, though local state and foreign laws may apply.

There are specific procedural requirements under the Trademark Act and Trademark Rules of Practice that must be adhered to. Like any form of intellectual property, maintaining ownership on a legal level is crucial to protect yourself from illegal use. Otherwise, individuals or businesses may use your trademark or product without your consent and profit from its use. If you have any questions about possible infringements or the application process with regards to your intellectual property, it may be wise to seek the advice and guidance of a lawyer familiar with trademark and copyright law to help.

Source: “Trademarks Basics FAQ,” Accessed Sept. 22, 2015