Tampa Trademark Attorney
Who Needs a Trademark?
A trademark is associated with a brand, a unique identification source, which is attached to a product or service. For instance, a product or service is usually associated with a word, logo, phrase, symbol or combination thereof when being offered to consumers in the stream of commerce. These associations are what is known as the product or services identification source, it is how the consumer identifies with the product or service and its quality. The very idea behind trademark law is to prevent consumer confusion in the marketplace.
What can be trademarked?
- Business name
- Domain name
What cannot be trademarked?
- Personal names (unless the name has a secondary meaning)
- Descriptive or generic words
- Place names
A trademark can be acquired through state registration, federal registration, or common law use of a mark. Registering your mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can give you invaluable benefits. Obtaining a registration provides the trademark owner with the best protection against infringers.
Choosing Your Trademark
It is critical to choose a mark that consumers can distinguish from other goods and services in the marketplace. The less distinctive a mark is, the less protection the trademark owner has. Meaning the more descriptive a mark is, the less protection the trademark owner has. For example, one cannot simply trademark a suitcase with the brand name, “zipper bag on wheels." Compare that descriptive name to the famous suitcase manufacturer “Samsonite.”
There are several different types of trademarks:
- Product Marks (Trademarks) –A product mark represents how a consumer identifies with a certain good or product in the marketplace. It is the company’s stamp on a product that allows the consumer to identify with the product’s quality or reputation. This mark can come in the form of a logo or a word or a combination thereof.
- Service Marks – A service mark is the same as a trademark. However, it protects how a consumer identifies with a service rather than a particular good. A service mark can be a word, phrase, or design that represents the service being offered to the consumer. This mark does not represent a good sold to the consumer—it is a service that must be rendered to benefit the consumer. This can be in the form of brand names, slogans, and logos.
- Strong vs. Weak Trademarks – You want to choose or create a trademark that will not cause confusion with another mark. Marks that are immediately protectable are considered inherently “strong” marks. Weak marks will only cover some aspect of your goods.
Trademark rights do not last forever. A trademark owner must prove, by submitting a specimen, with the trademark application, that the trademark is actually being used in the stream of commerce, i.e. the mark identifying the product or service is being used to sell those same products and services.
The Trademark Process
When filing for a trademark, you will need to go through the following steps:
- Trademark Search – If requested, a search is performed in the files of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to determine whether trademark registration or application can be found which could affect registration.
- Preparation & Filing Trademark Application – Once you approve preparation of a trademark application, the trademark attorney will commence preparing the application.
- Trademark Examination & Publication – Once the application is approved by the examiner, the application is published in the Trademark Office Gazette affording any third party who believes they may be damaged by registration of the trademark the right to lodge an objection.
- Statement of Use & Registration – Once the trademark examiner approves the application for publication and no objection is lodged during the 30-day publication period, the application is allowed and ready for registration.
- Renewal Fees After Registration – Renewal fees and affidavits confirming continued use in commerce must be filed to keep the trademark registered.