Trademarks are type of intellectual property protection that is granted to unique names, logos, designs, symbols, or device that is intended to be used for commercial purposes and to distinguish products or goods from those from another manufacturer. In other words, trademarks can simply be described as brand names.
An example could be Coca-Cola and its world-famous Coca-Cola bottle shape.
In the United States, trademarks are subject to applicable trademark laws, which regulate and enforce all aspects of trademarks. The governmental agency in charge of enforcing trademark law is the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Trademark Law in the United States
Trademark law in the United States is governed by the Lanham Act, which is contained in Title 15, Chapter 22 of the United States Code. The Lanham Act was passed into law on July 5th, 1946, and was enacted a year later. As the governing trademark law in the United States, the Lanham Act enforces the protection of trademark rights and prohibits particular acts such as trademark infringement, false advertising, and trademark dilution.
Trademark Legal Requirements in the United States
In order to be eligible to trademark a particular symbol, name, or logo, there are certain requirements that are imposed by law. Four general categories exist in which the mark must fall under in order for a particular mark or symbol to be considered eligible for trademark:
1. Arbitrary: Meaning that the marks, names, or words used on a product to not have an inherent relationship established. An example could be the word “Apple” which is the brand name for computers and there is no relation between apples or computers
2. Suggestive: The mark used implies a particular characteristic of the product but does not describe it specifically. An example would be the word “Coppertone” and its relation to suntan lotion.
3. Descriptive: The mark or words used will describe the product accurately. An example could be “Hard Rock Hotel,” which describes exactly what the product is.
4. Generic: These marks describe the overall category to which the product belongs to. However, generic trademarks are not protected by trademark laws in the United States.
One of the most important aspects in regards to trademark protection is trademark infringement. Trademark infringement is the action of a trademark being used without obtaining the proper authority or permission from the trademark owner or holder.
Trademarks are meant to be distinctive and unique, and thus, any usage of the trademark which can cause confusion between the protected mark and the new mark is considered to be infringement.
Issues regarding trademark infringement are punishable by applicable laws in the United States and the owner of a trademark can also file suit against the person or party engaging in the infringement act.
In such a situation, the owner of the mark can seek for an injunction, which will consist of a court order to the accused to stop using the mark immediately, and seek compensation for any damages caused by the infringing action.