Types of Trademarks
Small business owners can use many types of trademarks to protect their intellectual property. Trademark rights are essential for entrepreneurs and startup companies. Once a business has a registered trademark, the trademark owner has exclusive rights to the mark. There are many types of business trademarks. Each type of trademark serves a distinct purpose in protecting different aspects of brand identity.
Key Types of Trademarks
Wordmarks are trademarks that have one or more words, numbers, or letters. Examples of a word mark include brand names like Nike or Apple.
Design Marks/ Logo Marks
Company names are not the only aspects of a brand that distinguish a business entity. Design marks or logos also help consumers identify businesses in a crowded market.
Design marks or logo marks are visual symbols, images, and designs representing companies.
An example of a design mark is the Dallas Cowboys Star. Another example is the Starbucks logo, which features a green twin-tailed mermaid.
A combination mark is a type of trademark that combines wordmarks and logo marks to create a single mark.
The three diagonal stripes combined with the trade name Adidas in its distinctive writing is an example of a combination mark. A trade name is the legal name under which a business operates as a legal entity.
Slogan marks are taglines and phrases to identify a brand or its products.
Examples of slogan marks are Kit Kat's “Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat," and Nike's "Just Do It."
Sound marks are unique sounds or jingles associated with a brand. Sony's PlayStation gaming console startup sound is an example of a sound mark.
Color marks protect specific color combinations used to identify a brand. An example of a color mark is the Tiffany & Co. trademark for its distinctive Tiffany Blue color.
Motion marks are animations used as trademarks. Motion marks are rare but are great for branding purposes.
An example of a motion mark is the MGM Film Studio animation of a roaring lion that appears at the beginning of MGM films.
Certification marks indicate that services or products meet specific standards, qualities, and certifications.
An example of a certification mark is the USDA Organic Seal used on organic food products to indicate compliance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic farming and processing standards.
Members of an organization use collective marks to identify products and services that meet specific standards.
An example of a collective mark is the NBA logo. All NBA teams and their affiliated products and services use this mark to indicate association with the NBA. The use of this mark shows adherence to the NBA's standards.
A trade dress is the overall visual appearance of a product or packaging that distinguishes a product from its competitors.
An example of a trade dress is Chanel's box packaging. The unique and distinctive packaging is instantly recognizable and associated with the brand.
Hologram marks are 3D images that provide a distinctive visual representation of a brand. These are used in security features for products.
An example of a hologram mark is the Mastercard holographic stripe on their debit and credit cards as a security feature to help verify the card's authenticity.
The Difference Between Trademarks and Service Marks
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols, or designs that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Common examples of well-known trademarks include Apple, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks.
A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. For example, a company such as Google may brand certain products with a trademark but use a service mark on its internet searching service.
How To Protect Your Mark From Infringement
Before proceeding with federal trademark registration, you should complete a trademark search with the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). TESS is an online database provided by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that allows businesses to search for existing trademarks. This helps applicants check if their desired trademark is already in use.
If your trademark is not officially registered with a trademark office, use the trademark symbol “™" to indicate that a word or logo is being used as a trademark. Using this symbol on social media is helpful to provide a notice of claim to trademark rights.
A registered trademark provides legal protection for trademark owners against infringers. Once a federal trademark is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you must know how to protect your mark from infringement.
Trademark protection is designed to prevent customer confusion. Whenever someone uses a trademarked word, phrase, or symbol that may cause customer confusion, the trademark owner can go to court and prevent further use of the confusing trademark. In addition to preventing others from being confused, trademark owners can sue trademark infringers for damages caused by customer confusion.
See FindLaw's Trademarks section for more articles and resources.
Need Legal Advice? Contact a Trademark Attorney
Trademark law may seem complex. If you have questions about how to trademark a business name and want help with the trademark application process, consider getting in touch with an experienced intellectual property attorney. They can put their expertise to work for you.
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Contact a qualified business attorney to help you identify how to best protect your business' intellectual property.