A trademark is "a word, symbol or design, or a combination of these, used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace." There are unregistered trademarks and registered trademarks. As soon as you create and use an original mark, it becomes a form of intellectual property. Trademark registration isn't necessary for legal protection against unauthorized use. However, by registering your mark with the USPTO you gain the following rights:
- Ownership of the mark becomes public a matter of public record.
- Ownership Listing in the USPTO's online databases.
- You may record the U.S. registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.
- You gain the right to use the federal registration symbol "®".
- You gain the ability to bring an action defending your mark in federal court.
- The use of the U.S. registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries.
The term trademark is a general term that includes trademarks and service marks, each of which are defined as follows:
- A trademark is generally 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.
- A service mark is a mark that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service.
There are three symbols used in the identification of trademarks. The first is the "TM" symbol, which indicates that the owner is claiming the trademark as their own, but that the trademark is not registered with the USPTO. The second symbol is the "SM" symbol, which indicates that the owner is claiming the service mark as their own, but that the servicemark is not registered with the USPTO, for an unregistered servicemark. The third symbol is the ®, indicating a trademark that has been registered with the USPTO. The ® symbol may not be used while the trademark application is pending. The ® mark may also only be used on or in connection with listed with the goods or services described in the application.