A trademark is a word, symbol, or phrase that is used to identify the origin of a specific product. To receive protection under intellectual property law, a trademark must be unique and distinctive.
However, a mark that is initially unique and distinctive can later become common. If this happens, the trademark holder may lose their rights to the mark.
Take the word, “Google” for example. It’s the name of a cutting-edge company but it’s also becoming synonymous for any type of search on the web. As such, Google is at risk of its trademark becoming “too generic” or common in the future. You may have heard the story of Xerox. Xerox became synonymous for a photocopy. Velcro is currently fighting against Velcro becoming generic for Velcro hook and loop. See the video here.
Of course, this can happen to any brand, so it’s important to take steps to ensure that your trademark is not only distinctive but is used properly by consumers.
One way to do this is through use of the ® or ä symbols. The ® symbol indicates that a mark is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The ä means that your trademark is either pending or you are claiming common law rights. The use of these symbols can help to prevent others from using your trademark without permission and also helps to ensure that consumers know that your product is an official product of your company.
When possible, it’s helpful to use your trademark as an adjective, and do not use it in the plural or possessive form. Trademarks are adjectives used to modify nouns; the noun is the generic name of a product or service (Macintosh computer, Lexus car…). Whatever your trademark is, also be sure to use it consistently– meaning you represent your mark the exact same way every time you use it (e.g., same font, capitalization, italics, etc.).
Finally, if you are unsure if your trademark is at risk of becoming “too generic” over time, talk to an attorney. Here at the Law Office of Jason H. Rosenblum, PLLC, we can help you monitor and properly protect your trademark to ensure that it remains unique and distinctive. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 888-666-0062 or click here.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.