Step 1: What is a Trademark?
To start what will be my continuing series on trademark law, I will first define what a trademark is, followed by a few examples.
Under the Lanham Act, otherwise known as the Trademark act of 1946, a trademark includes any word, name, symbol or device or any combination of those used to identify and distinguish a source of goods from the goods of others. In addition, legal decisions have expanded the types of things that can be considered trademarks to include sounds, shapes, colors and smells! The important factor to consider is whether any of these categories are characteristics of products you sell which distinguish your products from another's.
Popular examples of traditional trademarked names include NIKE, STARBUCKS, HP AND DELTA AIRLINES. Of course, each of these companies has a logo which helps to reinforce their brand identity, and those too are an example of a trademark. However, did you know that the NBC chime is trademarked? That the curved shape of the bottle of Coca Cola is a trademark? That the smell of Play-Doh is a trademark? What becomes a factor in whether these types of items can be trademarked depends on whether the company seeking the trademark can convince the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that the consumer has now identified that characteristic with the product or company in question. There are other questions that may need to be answered before any particular one of these would be allowed to be trademarked, but the point is, trademarks are not limited to words and logos alone. One final example of an interesting and strange trademark; the live visual and motion elements of the Peabody Hotels' Duck March!
The main point of this article has been to give you a short but knowledgeable introduction to what a trademark can be. Of course, as with all trademark questions, it is always wise to consult INTELLEQUITY® for a full examination of your proposed Mark. If it seems likely that your Mark would qualify, we can run a comprehensive search to ensure that your Mark has not already been registered by another business and get it registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Once registered, we can also provide valuable advice and services to help you keep it valid, protect it, increase the value of it or even monetize it through licensing or other means.
Contact INTELLEQUITY® today at 503-877-0881 or visit us at intellequityip.com!