Trademarks - Important Things You Need to Know

By Chin Lee

At the outset, it becomes important to know what a trademark is. Take a scenario where you have designed a particular product. How do you let competitors and everyone else know that the product is your design and belongs to you? How do you prevent others from copying your idea and ensuring that they do not make their millions on your brainwave? A simple way is to use a trademark.

A trademark is a symbol or sign that an individual or an organization uses to identify products and services that it has developed as its own. Basically, it assigns ownership rights to you for specific products and services you have developed. A trademark is something that an individual or organization uses to identify specific products or services as their own. You may register your trademark with the US Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO). If your trademark is registered, you are allowed to use the ® sign. Otherwise, you can use the TM or the SM sign.

Legal Issues Involving Trademarks

However, your right over the trademarked product is valid regardless of whether you register it or not. Owning a trademark gives you the right to start legal proceedings against anyone who uses your trademarked product or service without prior permission. A person who uses your trademarked product or service without prior permission is said to be infringing on the product. This is a recognized offense, and is called trademark infringement.

Enter the Trademark Attorney

So whom would you turn to for help if you want to initiate legal proceedings against someone who is using your trademarked product or service without prior permission from you? This is where the trademark attorney can make a big difference. A trademark attorney is basically a lawyer who deals with all legal aspects of trademarks. Trademark infringements happen to be one of the things they deal with. Just as criminal lawyers specialize in criminal law, trademark attorneys specialize in the field of trademarks.

In USA, lawyers do not have to undergo any specialized training to be trademark attorneys. This is not the case in Commonwealth countries like the UK, New Zealand, Australia, etc. In these countries you must clear certain exams and be duly qualified to practice trademark law.

Applying for a Trademark

How do you apply for a trademark? Does it involve a convoluted process? To apply for a trademark, you must first fill up an application form. The application form must contain the name of the individual or organization filing for the trademark. Besides, it should also contain a legitimate address to which the USPTO can forward any correspondence and a proper drawing of the mark. Other things the application must mandatorily have are the listing of the product or service you wish to trademark and also the filing fee.

You can get the application at the website of the USPTO. You can make use of the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) to file your application with the USPTO. If you do not want to file the application online, you can get a printed form from the USPTO and mail it to the organization after filling it up.

While the USPTO encourages online filling of the application form and even sending it by mail, it does not encourage facsimiles of the application form.

Some Facts about Trademarks

Here are some more interesting yet relevant facts about trademarks. You do not necessarily have to be an American citizen to apply for a trademark with the USPTO. However, in case you are not an American citizen, in your application form you need to mention the country whose citizenship you hold. It may be that you hold dual citizenship. In such a scenario you must specify which country’s citizenship you wish to be displayed on the official gazette as well as the registration certificate.

Even if you have your trademark registered federally, the validity is only inside the USA. In case you have a trademark issued by the USPTO, you can get registration for the same with the trademark organization of any country that is part of the Madrid Protocol. You can do this by filling an application called the ‘international application’. You have to submit this application to USPTO, which will forward it to the International Bureau of the World Property Intellectual Organization.

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