Aldrich Law Firm, Ltd.
Aldrich Law Firm, Ltd.

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Navigating the complexities of trademarks

While people in Las Vegas may not give a lot of thought to trademarks, they are an important component of a business. Trademarks can be a logo, a phrase, a group of symbols or any other identifier that pertains to a specific company and what it does. Famous trademarks include the checkmark that Nike uses, the golden M for McDonalds, the silver apple with a bite missing out of it for Apple Inc., Google’s multi-colored name, and the image of a woman in green that represents Starbucks.

When people see a well-known trademark, they immediately picture that company’s product or service and the quality behind it. Corporations understand the power of a trademark and take legal steps to protect that mark from being used by a different company. The United States Patent and Trademark Office points out that first it is important to determine whether a trademark is needed. For example, businesses cannot usually trademark a website domain name unless it is also a brand, but they could trademark their name if the name is directly related to the product. Facebook’s name is also the name of its product and therefore, would qualify for trademark protection.

Once a trademark is registered, businesses have the right to initiate business litigation against anyone who tries to use that mark. This is known as trademark infringement, according to Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute. To prove a claim that someone has committed infringement, the company would need to show the following:

  •          The use of a similar design or mark would cause confusion among consumers over whether the other company is connected to the holder of the trademark.
  •          The company has a legal protection on the trademark
  •          The defendant’s mark is either similar to the trademark or copies it.
  •          The defendant does not have permission to use the mark

A business dispute over the use of a trademark can become complex if the products don’t actually compete with each other, the designs differ in some way or confusion isn’t likely. However, if it is determined that an infringement was committed, the other party may have to pay attorneys’ fees, court costs, a portion of profits or other monetary consequences.

John P. Aldrich
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