Most businesses try to use distinctive trademarks so consumers recognize them, whether they are a huge international company or a local Las Vegas business. Trademarks legally belong to the company or business owner. Copying or using a trademark that belongs to another company is known as trademark infringement and can result in business litigation.

What exactly is trademark infringement? The United States Patent and Trademark Office defines this as the unauthorized use of a recognized mark belonging to a company or entity, which is used in a way that can confuse or deceive consumers about the trademark’s source. For example, the distinctive round black mouse ears are known around the world as a trademark of the Walt Disney company. If another company uses a similar-looking logo that could lead consumers to believe its products were manufactured or distributed by Disney, it could be seen as trademark infringement. The same is true for trademarks that are coined as unique words or phrases. A copy machine manufacturer would not want to tell customers to Xerox a document if it were not the Xerox corporation.

To have a valid intellectual property dispute case regarding trademark infringement, a company must be able to prove that it exclusively owns the mark and that the defendant’s use of this mark can cause consumer confusion or financial harm to the plaintiff. According to Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute, trademarks that are the most distinctive and memorable are those that receive the most judicial protection by law.