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Patents and Trademarks: Quick Guide: Trademark Facts

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Trademark Facts

What is a trademark?

  • A trademark "is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, which identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others."
  • "A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product." 
  • See Basic Facts about Registering a Trademark for additional information.

 


What kind of trademark protection exists?

  • You do not need to register a trademark, although registration brings additional protection.
  • A trademark will not prevent others from selling the same or similar goods or services, but will prevent others from selling the same goods using the same or a confusingly similar name.

 


What kind of trademark protection exists?

  • Federally registered--®
  • State registered
    • Contact the appropriate state agency.
    • In Georgia, contact the Secretary of State's Office at (404) 656-2861
  • Common law (unregistered)
    • Valid only in the geographic area where it is recognized.

 


How long do trademarks last?

  • Federal trademark rights
    • last for ten years, with the ability to renew in 10 year increments.
    • lapse, if the applicant does not file an affadavit showing the continued use of the mark between the 5th and 6th year.
  • State trademark rights
    • differ from state to state
    • in Georgia are handled by the Secretary of State's Office at (404) 656-2861.
  • Common law trademark rights
    • last until the owner stops using it.

Can the Trademark Office refuse to register a trademark?

Yes. The Office will refuse to register matter if it does not function as a trademark. Not all words, names, symbols or devices function as trademarks. For example, matter which is merely the generic name of the goods on which it is used cannot be registered. 

Additionally, Section 2 of the Trademark Act (15 U.S.C. §1052) contains several of the most common (though not the only) grounds for refusing registration. The grounds for refusal under Section 2 may be summarized as:

  1. The proposed mark consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; 
  2. The proposed mark may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons (living or dead), institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt or disrepute;
  3. The proposed mark consists of or comprises the flag or coat of arms, or other insignia of the United States, or of any State or municipality, or of any foreign nation;
  4. The proposed mark consists of or comprises a name, portrait or signature identifying a particular living individual, except by that individual's written consent; or the name, signature, or portrait of a deceased President of the United States during the life of his widow, if any, except by the written consent of the widow;
  5. The proposed mark so resembles a mark already registered in the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) that use of the mark on applicant's goods or services are likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception;
  6. The proposed mark is merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of applicant's goods or services;
  7. The proposed mark is primarily geographically descriptive or deceptively geographically misdescriptive of applicant's goods or services; and
  8. The proposed mark is primarily merely a surname. 

Who can assist me?

  • You can contact a registered patent attorney or agent for expert assistance.
  • Other attorneys may also be able to offer assistance.
  • Local libraries may have trademark information available.

 


How much does it cost?

 


Where can I get forms?