Trademarks

General information about trademarks and how to search for them.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Source: USPTO website

Types of Trademarks

Word mark: a word or phrase identifying and distinguishing the source of services or goods of one party from others.

Design mark: a symbol or design identifying and distinguishing the source of services or goods of one party from another.

Sound mark: a sound identifying and distinguishing the source of services or goods of one party from others. Examples.

Service mark: a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. The term “trademark” is often used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.

Trade name/business name: the name which a business uses during commerce, which may not necessarily correspond to its legal business name.  Often, this name is shorter, easier to remember, or more fully associated with the area of commerce in which the business is engaged.

Brand mark: a word, phrase, symbol or design used by a business to distinguish a particular line of products.

Certification mark: a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof owned by one party who certifies the goods and services of others when they meet certain standards, such as Fair Trade certification.

Collective membership mark: a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof which indicates that the user of the mark is a member of a particular organization. For example, CPA designates a member of the Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Collective mark: a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof owned by a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization and used by its members to indicate the source of the goods or services, such as the National Football League (NFL).

Geographic certification mark: a word, name, symbol, device, or some combination of these elements, which certifies that goods or services originate in a particular geographic region, such as Idaho potatoes.

Source: USPTO website

Why Should I Register for a Trademark?

While federal registration is not required, it offers these benefits and more:

  • Public notice of your ownership claim of the mark
  • Nationwide legal presumption of your ownership of the mark
  • Exclusive rights to use the mark for your registered goods/services

Note that a mark can also be registered at the state, not federal, level and the rules for this differ between states.  For the state of North Dakota, go here for trademark registration.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is different from a trademark. A trade secret, as defined under US law, has three parts:

  1. Information (patterns, plans, compilations, etc) which is not made publicly available
  2. Reasonable measures undertaken by the owner of the secret to keep the information from being publicly known
  3. Economic value which comes from the secret not being publicly known