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IP Readings & Articles

Trademark Law

A trademark is a distinctive symbol, word, letter, number, picture, or combination thereof of adopted and used by a merchant or manufacturer to identify his/her goods.

The trademark laws are implemented so to keep businesses from "cashing in" on the goodwill and reputation of a competitor's products or services. It helps to prevent or punish the fraudulent marketing of goods or services as being those of another, presumably more reputable business. Obviously, if unchecked, such unfair competition deceives the public and steals trade from honest businesspersons.

Although not required to do so, the owner or user of a trademark may seek to register it. A trademark not yet in use may still be registered if it is to be put in use within six months.

A trademark registration lasts 7, 10 or 15 years and can be renewed for any number of additional periods. Infringement of the registered trademark may be enjoined (ordered stopped by a court) and damages awarded.

Immoral, deceptive, confusing, or merely descriptive "marks" are not protected. To be protected, a trade symbol (1) must not lapse from disuse; and (2) must remain associated with the business or its products and services (not becoming a generic term). Some former trade names are now in common public use or became generic, and thus no longer protected, such as Aspirin, Brassiere, Cellophane, Kleenex, and Thermos.

Besides trademarks, other types of trade symbols include:

(1)Service marks: similar to trademarks, but concerning services rather than goods; and
(2)Trade names: may act as trademarks or service marks, but serve mainly to designate the business entity itself.