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What is a trademark?

A trademark is a word, design or distinctive symbol adopted and used by an individual or organization to identify goods and distinguish them from the goods of others. A service mark is a word, design or distinctive symbol adopted and used by an individual or organization to identify services and distinguish them from services of others. In this discussion, I will refer to the use of trademarks for goods, but the same principles apply equally to the use of service marks for services. I will also use "organization" to refer to companies as well as individuals.

You may owm trademark rights as a result of the use of a trademark. Continuous use to distinguish and identify the source of goods confers and sustains rights in a mark.

A trademark is different from the legal name of an organization (a.k.a. trade or corporate name). Sometimes a company's name is also a trademark, but the use determines when the name is claimed as a mark.

Since use is so important to establishing and maintaining rights in mark, guidelines for use must be established and consistently followed. In this example, Pazza, Inc. owns the mark PAZZA for it's line of pizza.


Guidelines for Using a Trademark

A trademark identifies one organization's goods and distinguishes then from the goods of others. Use the trademark as a proper adjective. The mark should describe some other (generic) term which identifies the goods, e.g. PAZZA pizza. As a rule of thumb, if you don't have a generic term, you are not properly using the mark. This does not apply to goods stamped with the mark, since the generic term is understood to be the goods.

A mark should not be used as a noun or a verb, nor should it be used in the possessive or plural. Use of the possessive is appropriate when Pazza is being used as a trade name (for Pazza, Inc.), rather than as a service mark. Thus, each of the following would be correct:

Trademark Use

Trade Name Use

PAZZA TM pizza

Pazza's three convenient locations
Avoid using the mark as a noun in phrases such as "visit PAZZA". Yet the trade name "Pazza" may be used as a noun if it serves to identify the organization by name. Thus there is nothing wrong with the sentence "Pazza offers the freshest toppings and a homestyle handmade crust."

Set the mark off so that it stands out in printed matter.

Use the mark consistently. Do not say PAZZO pizza or PAZZI pizza.

TM, SM and ®

Use the appropriate symbol to tell the world you are claiming rights in a mark. Use TM for a trademark and SM for a service mark. Only use ® after you have obtained a federal registration for your mark. If your mark appears numerous times, for example in ad copy, use of the symbols can clutter your prose and distract readers from your message. In that case, use an asterisk or other marker to direct the reader to a footnote saying something like,"PAZZA is a trademark of Pazza, Inc."




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