A trademark is a word, symbol, or phrase, used to identify a particular manufacturer or seller's products and distinguish them from the products of another. 15 U.S.C. § 1127. For example, the trademark "Nike," along with the Nike "swoosh," identifies the shoes made by Nike and distinguish them from shoes made by other companies (e.g. Reebok or Adidas). Similarly, the trademark "Coca-Cola" distinguishes the brown-colored soda water of one particular manufacturer from the brown-colored soda of another (e.g. Pepsi). When such marks are used to identify services (e.g. "Jiffy Lube") rather than products, they are called service marks, although they are generally treated just the same as trademarks. Trademarks are a form of intellectual property.
Under some circumstances, trademark protection can extend beyond words, symbols, and phrases to include other aspects of a product, such as its color or its packaging. For example, the pink color of Owens-Corning fiberglass insulation or the unique shape of a Coca-Cola bottle might serve as identifying features. Such features fall generally under the term "trade dress," and may be protected if consumers associate that feature with a particular manufacturer rather than the product in general. However, such features will not be protected if they confer any sort of functional or competitive advantage. So, for example, a manufacturer cannot lock up the use of a particular unique bottle shape if that shape confers some sort of functional advantage such as being easier to stack or easier to grip.
Trademarks are governed by both state and federal statutes as well as common law. Common law developed from judicial decisions and precedent that is unwritten in a statue. The main federal statute is the Lanham Act, which was enacted in 1946 and most recently amended in 1996. Today, federal law provides the primary and most extensive, source of trademark protection, although common law actions are still available as well as actions under state trademark statutes.
Our experienced trademark attorneys have the experienced and knowledge necessary to guide you through any issue regarding trademark and infringement issues.
We perform novelty searches, prepare, file and deal with trademark applications in the United States as well as abroad. We have trademark attorneys authorized to represent applicants the United States Patent and Trademark Office. We also assist in seeking consent to registration and in renewal of registered trademarks.
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