What Is A Trademark?
A trademark, or “mark,” is a any word, phrase, symbol, design, sound, smell, color, product configuration, group of letters or numbers, or combination of these, adopted and used by a company to identify its products or services, and distinguish them from products and services made, sold or provided by others. Its primary purpose is to allow people to recognize the source of a product so that they know the quality to expect as a result of past experiences. Over a period of time, a business develops a reputation as a result of providing a certain quality of goods or services – and trademark laws permit it to protect that reputation, which, depending on public acceptance, can be very valuable. For this reason, the well-known marks of reputable companies are valuable business assets, worthy of nurturing and protection.
Proper Use Of A Trademark
The proper use of a trademark is crucial. Proper use preserves a trademark’s ability to identify the origin of products or services, and increases the trademark’s potential for “secondary meaning” or an indicator of quality. It also minimizes the likelihood that a trademark will become generic. The most compelling point, however is to remember that trademark rights are based upon use. For this reason alone, anyone who cares about her trademark will want to use it properly, and will want others to do so as well. Trademarks are adjectives, and should be used only as such. Trademarks never should be used as nouns or verbs. Nor should trademarks be pluralized, or used in the possessive form. Non-adjectival uses of trademarks, over time, can result in genericness or a finding of unintentional abandonment – even when such use emanates from the public, rather than a trademark owner.
One way to ensure that a trademark is used in proper adjectival context, is to follow each use with the generic noun for the product identified. For example, instead of just writing PEM®, one would have to write PEM ® brand self-clinching fasteners. In regards to PEMSERTER® it can never stand alone, it should be written as PEMSERTER® systems. Using these terms after the trademarks makes them adjectives, rather than nouns. Using the word “brand,” after a mark and before a generic product name, like in the example above, further guards against non-adjectival use. Read more about the PEM brand.
Trademarks should be used in ways that distinguish them from surrounding text. The use of trademark notices, generic terms, and “brand,” in connection with trademarks, helps differentiate trademarks from generic terms. However, trademarks should also be capitalized, underlined, italicized, placed in quotation marks or depicted in boldface type, whenever they appear in printed or electronic media. The goal is not to just avoid genericness and abandonment, but to create a distinct commercial impression in the minds of consumers regarding a trademark, and the products, services and business it represents. Combining a logo with a trademark can enhance or create a distinctive commercial impression and sometimes can distinguish two similar trademarks from one another.
In order for trademark rights to be created and maintained, a trademark must be affixed to a specific product, or used in the provision of a particular service. Trademarks cannot discharge their source-identifying duties, if they cannot be seen on products, or with services. Trademarks are affixed by applying them directly to a product, to containers in which the product is packaged, or to tags or labels attached to the product.