Intellectual property is the area of law that deals with protecting the rights of those who create original works.
It covers everything from original plays and novels to inventions and company identification marks.
A trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services. It’s how customers recognize you in the marketplace and distinguish you from your competitors.
A common misconception is that having a trademark means you legally own a particular word or phrase and can prevent others from using it. However, you don’t have rights to the word or phrase in general, only to how that word or phrase is used with your specific goods or services.
You become a trademark owner as soon as you start using your trademark with your goods or services. You establish rights in your trademark by using it, but those rights are limited, and they only apply to the geographic area in which you’re providing your goods or services. If you want stronger, nationwide rights, you’ll need to apply to register your trademark with us.
You’re not required to register your trademark. However, a registered trademark provides broader rights and protections than an unregistered one.
Fanciful trademarks are invented words. They only have meaning in relation to their goods or services. For example, Exxon® for petroleum or Pepsi® for soft drinks.
Arbitrary trademarks are actual words that have no association with the underlying goods or services. Think of the term “apple.” If an apple orchard tried to register the word “apple” as a trademark for the type of apples they grow, that trademark wouldn’t be registerable. But, Apple® has been registered as a trademark for computers. Apple® for computers is unique.
Suggestive trademarks are words that suggest some quality of the goods or services, but don’t state that quality of the goods or services outright. Consider Coppertone® for sun-tanning products. The trademark gives the impression that using Coppertone® suntan oil will make your skin shimmer like copper.