A Trademark or service mark is a distinctive word, phrase, slogan, name, graphic symbol, picture, emblem, device, design, logo or any combination thereof which is used in commerce to identify and distinguish a company’s products or services from that of another company and to indicate the source of the goods or services. A service mark does the same thing as a trademark, but instead of products, service marks identify services and events.
Trademark law governs the use of trademarks and service marks. Trademarks are a form of intellectual property. The law entitles the owner(s) to exclusive use of the mark in relation to the products or services for which it is registered. The law in most jurisdictions also allows the owner of a registered trademark to prevent unauthorized use of the mark in relation to products or services which are identical or similar to the registered products or services, know as trademark infringement.
Trademark infringement occurs when one party adopts or uses a trademark that is confusingly similar to the prior adopted and used trademark for similar products or services. To prove infringement the mark’s owner(s) must prove that the infringer’s use of the mark has created a likelihood of confusion about the origin of the defendant's goods or services. The confusion created can be that the infringer’s products are the same as that of the owner(s) or that the infringer is somehow associated, affiliated, connected, approved, authorized or sponsored by the owner(s). The necessity of the confusion element has been well established under both federal and state case law.
Trademarks are governed by both state and federal law. State common law originally provided the main source of protection of trademarks, but over time, federal trademark law has assumed much of the ground originally covered by state common law and now provides the main source of trademark protection. The main federal statute is the Trademark Act of 1946, as amended (the Lanham Act) which codified much of the existing common law on trademarks. The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is responsible for administering all laws relating to trademarks and patents in the U.S.
Rights to a trademark can be acquired by either being the first to register the mark with the PTO, or by being the first to use the mark in commerce, which provides protection at the state level by statute and/or common law. To obtain the greatest protection for a mark, it is usually advisable to register the mark. A mark which is registered with the PTO should be marked with the ® symbol. Unregistered trademarks should be marked with a “tm”, and unregistered service marks should be marked with an “sm”.
Trademark rights can be lost through improper licensing, assignment, genericity or abandonment. If the use of a trademark is licensed without adequate quality control or supervision by the trademark owner, the trademark will be canceled. And if the rights to a trademark are assigned to another party in gross, without corresponding sale of any assets, the trademark will be canceled. Genericity is when a trademark loses its distinctiveness over time and becomes generic, thereby losing its trademark protection. Trademark rights must be maintained through actual lawful use of the mark for a period of time, which varies, or rights to the mark will cease. In addition, if a mark’s registered owner(s) fail to enforce the registration in the event of infringement, it may also expose the registration to become liable for an application for removal from the register after a certain period of time on the grounds of “non-use”. Copyright HG.org
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Trademark Law - US
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The work of the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law (ABA-IPL) - through its eight Divisions and over 60 committees- is the foundation and heart of our productive efforts as the largest and most influential organization of intellectual property lawyers in the world.
- Intellectual Property Rights e-Recordation (IPRR) - Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
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- Lanham Act of 1946 (Trademark Act)
The Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1051 et seq., was enacted by Congress in 1946 based on the power granted to it by the Commerce Clause. It provides for a national system of trademark registration and protects the owner of a federally registered mark against the use of similar marks if such use is likely to result in consumer confusion, or if the dilution of a famous mark is likely to occur. The scope of the Lanham Act is independent of and concurrent with state common law.
- Madrid Protocol
The Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks -- the Madrid Protocol -- is one of two treaties comprising the Madrid System for international registration of trademarks. The protocol is a filing treaty and not a substantive harmonization treaty. It provides a cost-effective and efficient way for trademark holders -- individuals and businesses -- to ensure protection for their marks in multiple countries through the filing of one application with a single office, in one language, with one set of fees, in one currency.
- Trademark Law - Overview
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- Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP)
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- Trademark Trial and Appeal Board
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- US Patent and Trademark Office
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Trademark Law in Europe
- European Communities Trademark Association
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- MARQUES - Association of European Trademark Owners
MARQUES, which was founded in 1987, is the association of European trade mark owners. MARQUES represents trade mark owners’ interests before the relevant EU and other international bodies in all relevant areas. It also organises networking and educational events and promotes communication between brand owners in Europe. The MARQUES website provides a wide range of information and general IP resources of use to both trade mark owners and legal practitioners.
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OHIM is the European Union agency responsible for registering trade marks and designs that are valid in all 27 countries of the EU.
Trademark Law - International
- International Trademark Association
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- Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks
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- Trademark Law Treaty
The aim of the Trademark Law Treaty (TLT) is to approximate and streamline national and regional trademark registration procedures. This is achieved through the simplification and harmonization of certian features of those procedures, thus making trademark applications and the administration of trademark registrations in multiple jurisdictions less complex and more predictable.
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- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is dedicated to developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property (IP) system, which rewards creativity, stimulates innovation and contributes to economic development while safeguarding the public interest. WIPO was established by the WIPO Convention in 1967 with a mandate from its Member States to promote the protection of IP throughout the world through cooperation among states and in collaboration with other international organizations. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. The Director General is Francis Gurry.
- World Trademark Report
The World Trademark Report is a daily email service that provides Newsletter Updates on trademark developments from over 60 jurisdictions. The Newsletter Updates are written by a panel of 200 leading trademark lawyers from both national and international law firms. They are written in a clear and concise manner, and are designed specifically for senior lawyers in industry and private practice, as well as government and regulatory officials.
Organizations Related to Trademark Law
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