As an established business person, it would be imperative that you trademark your product names, business names, domain name and of course – your logo. This will grant you the legal authority to use all of the above that you have registered for yourself, and prevent any other third party from doing the same.
If you are a company that profits from its business name, it becomes all the more necessary for you to register your trademark, as unscrupulous competitors or unrelated third-parties might try to cash in on the goodwill that your business has created, and the resultant name and fame that it has managed to gather for itself.
Trademarks are registered through a relatively simple trademark registration process, which can be carried out at the federal, state or international level. As would be expected, state level registration is the cheapest. Federal trademark application is not that expensive either.
Trademarks are essentially the ways in which products and services in the market are identified. These include the brand names themselves, their labels, packaging, design, color schemes and typography used and so on. Trademark law ensures uniformity for customers to easily recognize products or services from a particular company, across diverse locations.
Categories and Criteria of Trademarks
The distinct identity of any trademark is determined by the courts, as per specific criteria as follows:
- Arbitrary – A trademark- that has no obvious connection with the underlying product. For example, unless you know, ‘Lakme’ per se does not tell you anything about being a beauty/cosmetic product.
- Suggestive – This is a trademark that gives a pointer towards what the original product is, without directly saying so. Often, the mention of colors in brand names suggests the existence of that color in some way, without divulging anything further.
- Descriptive – As the criteria suggests, this kind of a trademark describes the quality of the primary product, such as color, ingredients, dimensions, etc. Descriptive trademarks need to get to the stage where they acquire secondary meaning, before they can be protected.
- Generic – Such a trademark applies to the entire general category to which the product in question belongs. As would be apparent, such generic trademarks are not protected under copyright law.
- Service Marks – These are marks that promote services and events. The five interlocking circles of the Olympics would be an excellent example of service marks, pertaining to a global sporting event.
- Certification Marks – These marks vouch for products or services, as per facets such as region/area, manufacturing process, quality standards, etc. Scotch whisky would be an example of a certification mark for all whisky that comes from Scotland.
- Collective Marks – With multiple applicable characteristics, these could be any of either marks or phrases or words that help identify products or services, or even members of associations or organizations. Usually, only the members of a group or organization have the authority to own a collective mark.
- Trade Dress – This could refer to any of the unique ways in which a product is packaged or labeled, or a service is rendered. For example while some alcohol bottles take on a very distinctive shape (which is their trade dress), there are restaurants that have a certain theme, layout, color coding etc, which in turn is their trade dress.
- Distinction between Trade Names and Trademarks – Trade name per se is the name that a business uses to identify itself. You will see this name on documents such as the business’s stock certificates, invoices, letterheads, etc. The trade name usually does not have the extensive legal protection that a trademark has. It is only when the business name is used in the context of identifying products or services produced by the business that it reaches the stature of being considered a trademark. For instance, the domain name of a website would be considered a trademark when the same is actually used in connection with offering e-commerce solutions or some such services.
Please note you will need to check with your lawyer prior to confirm this information is correct. This information is only to be used as a reference only.
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