Trademarks and Service Marks

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a brand name that identifies the source of a product or service. If a business is supplying a product, the brand name is known as a trademark. If a business is supplying a service, then the name given to the service is known as a service mark. In the case of either a trademark or service mark, the mark includes any name, word, symbol, device, logo, color (alone or in any combination) that is used (or intended to be used) to distinguish and identify the goods or services of one seller from those of other sellers.

Why Does My Business Need a Trademark or Service Mark?

(For simplicity’s sake, we will refer only to trademarks. If you have a service business, simply replace the word “trademark” with the words “service mark” and the word “product” with the word “service.”)

The purchasing decisions of buyers are influenced by trademarks and the reputations of brands represented by trademarks. Trademarks are important business assets and here are five reasons why.

  1. Trademarks Serve as Communication Tools – Trademarks can convey messages and attributes about your company and your company’s products. Your trademark doesn’t have to be a word. Designs are recognizable regardless of language or alphabet – for example, the Nike “Swoosh” design.
  2. Trademarks Help Consumers Find you – Today’s marketplaces are crowded with many brands. A trademark helps to distinguish your business from your competitors, capture customer attention, and make your products stand out.
  3. Trademarks Allow you to Utilize the Internet and Social Media – Your trademarked brand is the first thing potential customers will enter into a search engine or social media platform when trying to find your products.
  4. Trademarks are Valuable – Trademarks are assets that can be bought, sold, licensed or used as security for business loans. The more the reputation of your business grows, the more valuable your brand will become.
  5. Trademarks Don’t Expire – Your trademark will never expire as long as you continue to use it in United States commerce. Some of the most widely-recognized brands in the United States have been around for a long time. For instance, Mercedes was first registered in 1900; Pepsi-Cola in 1896.
How Does my Business Go About Getting a Trademark?

(This discussion only applies to obtaining a trademark for use in the United States.)

The first step is obvious – if you don’t already have a trademark, you have to come up with one. That might sound simple, but it’s important that your trademark be unique. A search of the trademark records in the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) is required to ensure that your proposed trademark (or one very similar) is not already in use for a similar product to your own. Additionally, we recommend searching each state’s trademark registry and trade journals and websites to rule out any marks in use that are confusingly similar to your mark.

Once you have your unique trademark, it will need to be filed in the USPTO so that it can eventually be registered. Filings can be made on more than one basis. The two most common ones are based on whether the trademark is already in use or is not currently in use but is intended to be used in the future. The USPTO may come back with questions or issues that need to be addressed, but if all goes well, you will eventually receive a Registration Certificate and the right to use the registration symbol (®) next to your trademark.

How Does my Business Go About Getting a Trademark in a Foreign Country?

A US trademark registration does not offer protection for your trademark in a foreign country. Separate trademark filings must be made in each country where you would like to have protection. However, if you have a pending trademark application in the USPTO or a US trademark registration certificate, you can seek registration of your trademark in any one or more of the countries that have joined the Madrid Protocol (currently 101 countries). This is accomplished by filing just one International Application (done through the USPTO) with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Why Your Business Needs Legal Help to File a Trademark

A trademark attorney knows all the ins and outs relating to obtaining a trademark registration. A trademark filing may result in complications that will be difficult for you to handle on your own. As mentioned, the USPTO may bring up issues that have to be dealt with. Also, there could be a business with the same or similar trademark that didn’t show up in the search, or maybe the trademark has not been registered. In the United States preference is given to which business used the trademark first not to when it was registered. Detroit Technology Lawyers (DTL) has the expertise to handle all the issues that may arise in a trademark filing, so contact us today for a discussion of your needs and how we can best assist you.


US Trademark Regulations:

Madrid Protocol Countries: