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What Even is a Trademark?

September 10, 2020 Business Law

You’ve probably seen the symbols TM or ®. If not, go look at pretty much anything you own. You’ll find those symbols, I guarantee it.

Some Trademark Basics:

Trademarks are all about source recognition and distinguishing one brand from another. Trademarks allow consumers to know that what they are buying is trustworthy and is a brand they are familiar with. For example- all Taco Bells look the same so you know you are in a Taco Bell. Nike always has the same logo and tagline on their products.

Trademarks protect logos, taglines, brand names, product names, and other things, such as trade dress, etc. A trademark is literally just those symbols next to things. Sure, you get a certificate, but the concept is kind of abstract. You’re not physically getting anything but a symbol that protects you from infringement.

All About That ®:

Okay, back to the symbols. TM stands for Trademark, but a common law or unregistered one. Any mark (i.e. name, logo) gets a common law trademark once it is used in commerce. However, before you get all cocky, TM offers less protection than a registered trademark.

The registered symbol is ®. You can only use this with registered trademarks. Not with common law or a pending trademark.

Reasons to Care:

  1. Trademarks deter others from infringing on you.
  2. People will recognize your brand and won’t be confused.
  3. It gives you the right (and duty) to protect your trademark.
  4. They make your mark distinctive.
  5. It’s a best practice!
  6. They offer national protection.

Finally, using the ® without a registered trademark is a Federal Offense!