You’ve spent a lot of time and effort developing your own unique brand, and the last thing you want is for someone to copy—or steal outright—all of your hard work.
That’s what a “trademark” is for. It’s a form of copyright protection used for commercial applications. In the U.S., trademarks are reviewed and registered at the U.K Patent and Trademark Office. Registered trademarks give protective rights to the trademark owner, including exclusive use and the ability to persecute any theft or imitation of your trademark property.
Trademarks are usually represented by three symbols:
™ – The “trademark” symbol indicates an unregistered trade mark. It’s used to brand goods or products
℠ – The “service mark” symbol indicates an unregistered service mark. It’s used to brand services.
® – The “R” symbol indicates a registered trademark. It can only be issued by relevant national authorities.
Having a registered trademark means you are given a specific set of rights to protect your brand property. These rights grant your property exclusive use of your mark in relation to products or services for which they are registered. It also prevents unauthorized use or imitation of your mark that could potentially confuse customers as to which is the true maker of a product. It also keeps rival companies from using your trademark for products unrelated to yours. Read about the first UK trademark.
Trademarks are normally applied on a territorial or jurisdictional basis. Unregistered trademarks protect your brand and protect your brand name only until within your area of influence, registered U.S. trademarks protect your brand within the United States, and international trademarks registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization can protect your brand overseas.
Also called “common law” trademarks, unregistered trademarks don’t benefit from the extensive protective rights given to registered marks. That doesn’t mean that they’re totally vulnerable, however. Protection laws for unregistered trademarks vary from area to area, but common law trademarks can usually enforce brand protection rights within their area of influence – a small business’ operating area for example.
Trademarks are normally applied to brand names, phrases, symbols and logos. But trademarks can also be used for qualities unique to a brand, such as color, smell, or sound. Cadbury chocolates, for example, has registered the particular shade of purple they use in their packaging, so that only they can apply that color to the packaging of candy items.
A trademark differs from a patent in that a patent has to do with a product’s underlying technology and process, while the trademark deals with the product’s brand name and image.