What Can Be Protected By a Trademark?
Trademarks and the concept of Trademark protection have been in existence for literally thousands of years dating back to the days of the Roman Empire when blacksmiths would emblazon swords that they had crafted with a distinctive symbol. The Trademark was affixed to the finished product to identify the originating craftsman or shop.
Trademarks have greatly changed since that time and can now consist of nearly any type of identifying feature that signifies or identifies the person or company that sells or markets a particular product or service. Trademarks can consist of any single or combination of identifying features including but not limited to, the following:
A Trademark not only serves to identify the producer or seller of a particular product or service but also serves to differentiate the item from similar products produced by a competitor. Trademarks can be owned by individuals, businesses, or any other legal entity and are considered to be Intellectual Property. They also may be sold, leased, or licensed to outside parties but also must be “in use” to be considered protectable.
Trademark protection applies to both registered and unregistered symbols, logos, designs, etc. For instance, if a company has sold a product under a distinctive brand name for a period of time without registering that name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office or the Secretary of State of any state, the Trademark may still be afforded protection and the Owner or Licensee may seek and be awarded damages for any infringement.
Simply using any of these items or combination thereof to distinguish one’s product or services can afford the owner trademark protection under what is known as “Common Law Trademark Protection.” However, it is advisable to register a Trademark in order to be afforded the highest level of protection and to ensure the owner the ability to recover damages if Trademark infringement occurs.