Trademark Forms

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Trademark and copyright are sometimes confused, and indeed the law on the two can overlap in some instances. A trademark protects the use of a name, phrase, logo, or image. A copyright, on the other hand, protects a creative expression, be it a novel, a musical score, a painting, or the like. Trademarks can also be confused with patents. Patents are commercial protection on the use of a creation without the creator's permission. Patent and trademark law usually do not overlap, however.

Good examples of trademarks are the Nike logo and the Xerox machine. Eligibility for a trademark hinges on whether a word or phrase or graphic are distinctive rather than generic. Xerox and Kleenex are good examples of trademarks that have entered common language. We say "Xerox" when we mean copy, and "Kleenex" when we mean facial tissue.

If you have a business name or logo, to bring the topic closer to home, you can't necessarily use and mark it as trademarked. Registering your name or logo in your state or federally isn't enough. All that means is that another company has not yet registered the same name. Before using your name or logo as a trademark, you must first conduct a formal trademark search. This will ensure that no other company or individual is already using it, or confirm that they are, and avoid the possibility of a legal mess.

Conducting a Trademark Search

The place to start a search is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which provides detailed instructions on conducting searches. You might not have the time or resources to search yourself. A search will cost, at the low end, several hundred dollars. It might be more efficient, a better use of your time, to hire a professional firm that's in the business of conducting such searches. Two such are the Sunnyvale Center for Invention, Innovation, and Ideas and Thomson and Thomson. After that, you can find trademark forms from a variety of sources, and simply fill them out. The forms should be clear and concise.

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