A registered trademark is a visual image and/or arrangement of words that have been approved as an official trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
A registered trademark can be used in connection with a specific product or line of products (such as a T-shirt line). It can also be used in connection with the provision of various professional services. The application process is usually different for product trademarks versus services trademarks.
Both application processes usually require a background search to check that the mark isn’t already in use by another entity; the process also involves the submission of various documents and descriptions identifying the mark as it will be used in commerce.
What Rights Does a Registered Trademark Grant?
Getting a trademark registered usually grants certain legal and commercial rights for the holder of the mark. This may include:
- The right to display the mark in connection with the corresponding products or services
- The right to charge other entities fees for the use of the logo or mark
- The right to exclude other parties from using the mark
Thus, a registered trademark essentially belongs to the company that registered it. Another company cannot use a registered trademark without the owner’s permission.
Trademark registration is not granted for marks that are already being used by another company. The test for this is whether a mark would cause “consumer confusion” when compared with another company’s trademark. This is a detailed legal analysis that usually requires the help of an attorney to determine how close the marks are in comparison to one another.
Registered trademarks will generally appear with the letters “TM” somewhere in, on or near the mark when displayed on a product.
What if Registered Trademark Laws are Violated?
If a registered trademark law is violated, it can lead to various civil legal consequences. This usually includes an infringement lawsuit that ends in a monetary damages award being issued to the non-violating party. The damages award and other possible remedies may reimburse the party for the improper use of the trademarked material.
One of the most common examples of this is where a company sews a trademark onto a counterfeit piece of clothing in order to have it pass off as an authentic product. In such cases, the violating party may be required to reimburse the original company for any losses caused by their counterfeiting activity. They may also be required to forfeit their unauthorized products to law enforcement officials, and may even be subject to state criminal laws.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Registered Trademark Laws?
Registered trademark laws contain some very specific details when it comes to obtaining a trademark. You may wish to hire a qualified intellectual property lawyer for help if you’d like to register a mark or logo with the USPTO. Your attorney can help you during the entire process, and can also represent you in court if you need to file a lawsuit over a trademark dispute.