A trademark is a distinctive sign, symbol, logo, or group of words/numbers unique to a company, individual, or legal entity. In most cases, it's used to identify a commercial product. If the mark is used to identify a service, it is called service marks.
Trademarks and service marks are symbols registered with both state and federal agencies. By registering a trademark, the owner has the right to keep others from using a similar mark for a product or service which might confuse a consumer.
Trademarks do not have to be registered, but legal protection against infringement requires registration with the state or federal government. Registration is proof of ownership and must be renewed. To avoid any challenges, you should have an attorney conduct a search for any similar marks in existence.
Trademarks do expire, and must be maintained through use. In most cases, the trademark rights end if the mark is not actively used for 5 years -- in that case, it's considered abandoned and may be re-registered by anyone, as long as the new registrar has established use and is associated with or linked to the original registrar.
Sale or Licensing of Trademarks
Trademarks can be sold if the sale accompanies an associated asset. This means the trademark is sold along with the company which created the goods associated with the mark. However, trademarks can be licensed to another entity without any asset sale. However, the owner should keep track of what the licensee is doing with the trademark or run the risk of the Court ruling the trademark abandoned.
Trademarks and Domain Names
Some trademarks also apply to domain names to prevent domain hijacking. In this case, the domain has to identify the company's good or services. This doesn't apply to descriptive or generic terms which are not eligible for trademark.
It is also possible to register trademarks internationally, though not globally. Most trademarks must be registered country-by-country. Some areas - like the European Union - have ways of registering with all countries in their group, but you must register with all the countries and not just a few. These applications are done through systems like the Community Trade Mark System. The Trademark Law Treaty established a standardized procedure for the trademark process and member jurisdictions.
With international, federal, and state law affecting trademark issues, it's vital to consult a local Trademark Attorney. Trademark lawyers can do your searches, file your application, and prosecute Infringement. Your business is too important to go unprotected.
Trademark Term of the Day
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