Trademarks are a way for companies and other entities to protect their intangible assets. One of the most important assets to a company is its image, or in other words, the perception of the company through the eyes of the public. In most cases, a company is presented to the public through logos, names, images, symbols, sounds and a combination of any of these. They are usually found on company product packaging or advertisement mediums. These elements can be trademarked and protected
Obtaining Trademark Protection:
A company or entity may begin using a trademarked item immediately and receive limited protection automatically. Though this protection is useful, it only extends to the local regions in which it is used. Also, trademark infringement is more difficult to prove in court if the trademark is not yet registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Once a company registers the trademark with the office and it is approved, it is protected nationwide, and holds more weight in court proceedings.
What Does Intellectual Property Law Protect for Trademarks?
A company’s trademark rights can be infringed upon in several ways by other companies and entities. The most serious way in which trademark infringement can occur is through the purposeful misleading of customers. If trademarks bear a similar likeness, reasonable customers may mistake one product for another and believe that the two products are associated with one another.
Trademark dilution is another way in which trademark infringement can occur. A trademark owned by a company can be “diluted” by decreasing the trademark’s value to the public and damaging the company’s name. In addition, dilution can occur by diminishing a trademark’s uniqueness in a market. This can happen even if the two products are in completely different areas of commerce.
Trademark Protection for Names:
Unprotectable trademarks are those that have features not covered under United States intellectual property law or trademarks that are improperly used and no longer fall within protection. Trademarks may lose their protection through non-use, when a trademark is no longer used by a company. When a company has their trademark registered with the USPTO, they must prove to the office that they currently use the trademark in their marketing advertisements and packaging. Also, trademarks may become such a commonly used term for describing the product’s general type that they lose their copyright protection.