What is a Trademark?

I am often asked, “What is a trademark and what does it get me?”  Well, the first part of that questions is fairly straight forward, the second part, not so straight forward, but let me try to help.

What is a trademark?  A trademark is something that is used to promote your small business.  What immediately comes to mind is your small business name, however a mark could be a logo, a phrase, such as your tagline, a scent, a color, a sound, etc.  Small business owners often ask what I mean when I say a scent, well have you ever walked into those trendy stores, come on, I know you know what I’m talking about, and it does not matter if you walk into the store in Pleasanton, California or New York, New York, you smell that overwhelming scent that follows you around for the remainder of the day, well that is probably a trademarked scent.  Each time you smell that scent you know exactly where you are.  How about a color?  The best example I can give is IBM blue.  When I say IBM blue I’m not sure that there is anyone who does not automatically see the color I am speaking of.  How about a sound?  Well, you know when you boot up your windows computer and you hear that distinctive little jingle of a noise, yes, you know the one…well, that is an example of a sound that may be trademarked.  Bascially, a mark is used for something that is used to create recognition of your business.  Does that help answer the question of what is a trademark?

As for what it might get you as a small business owner, well that depends.  First your mark must be properly registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or your state trademark office.  Whether you file federally, within your state or even internationally may warrant a conversation with your small business attorney.  Once you have properly registered, then if you have to enforce the use you can obtain protections such as filing a lawsuit, claiming economic harm (loss of money due to some else’s use of your mark), and even fines and attorney’s fees.  These may all be available to you in protection of your use of the small business mark you have properly registered.

So, what is a trademark?  It can be many things and it can be protected in just as many ways.

If you have questions about trademarks, Integrated General Counsel can help you determine your next steps.  If you are ready for a results-driven plan of action, contact us either by telephone at (925) 399-1529, schedule yourself into our calendar for an appointment at a time convenient for you, or complete the Contact Kristen form and we will get back to you.


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