Trademark Basics: Overview of U.S. Federal TrademarksA Trademark is a logo, design, slogan, phrase, smell, sound, name, word or other unique mark, or combination thereof, which is used to identify the business or individual source of goods or services in a commercial market. If the Trademark identifies the source of a provided service, as opposed to goods, then the Trademark is technically referred to a Service Mark; however, despite this technical label, Service Marks are still usually referred to simply as Trademarks.
The Trademark must be unique in the sense that it is different from other marks in its specific product or service market, thereby allowing consumers to differentiate the Trademark from other Trademarks. Furthermore, the Trademark must be more than a mere description of the good or service provided and cannot be simply a generic term (i.e., Bread, Sock, or Pen). Typically, the less likelihood of confusion a Trademark has with another Trademark, the stronger that Trademark. A good example of a Trademark is Apple or Google.
Processing times for the United States Patent and Trademark Office to process a Trademark application vary based upon the type of application filed.
Federal Law Protecting U.S. Federal TrademarksU.S. federal protections for Trademark rights are derived from the highest authority. The Commerce Clause, as enumerated in Section 3, Clause 8 of Article I, grants Congress the sole power "[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribe." Utilizing this constitutional power, Congress has enacted federal acts granting federal protection of Trademarks including the Lanham Act (the US Trademark Act), Federal Trademark Dilution Act and 2006 Revision, and the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. In addition, Trademarks are also protected through state statutes.
Principal Register versus Supplemental RegisterTrademarks are registered primarily on the Principal Register. Trademarks not able to be registered on the Principal Register may sometimes be registered on the Supplemental Register if the Trademark is capable of making an applicant's goods or services distinguishable. In addition, it is important to note that Trademarks registered through the Supplemental Register may be capable of being placed on the Principal Register after 5 years if the Trademark obtains secondary meaning.
Filing a Virginia Trademark and Obtaining State Trademark ProtectionIn addition, many states also allow for Trademark registration specifically under state statute. For example, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state registration fee for a Virginia Trademark is typically $30 per class. Please see the Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission's Division of Securities and Retail Franchising for more information
It is important to consult a Trademark attorney regarding both federal and state Trademark registration as self-filing may impact the accuracy of the application and processing time. As well, it may lead to possible infringement claims and result in other general protection concerns.
- Trademark Infringement
- Trademark Assignment, Licensing, and Royalties
- Trademark Protection
- Trademark Transactional Services and Costs
- Intellectual Property