California has a special history with trademark law, as it was the first state to offer trademark protection, even predating the enactment of the federal trademark laws. In particular, Southern California is home to some of the most famous trademarks in modern history. For example, Google®, Apple®, Adobe®, Facebook®, Tesla®, Mattel® and Zappos.com® are all headquartered in the Golden State, and all were originally started here too, along with the first McDonald’s®, the first Disney® theme park and the first Hyatt® hotel. All have incredibly iconic trademarks that are recognized by nearly everyone in the world.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a word, words or symbol that represent a company, product or service. Trademark rights are different from other intellectual property rights because a legal intellectual property right can be created in a trademark by either registration of the mark, or through use of the mark. Registration of a trademark is also dissimilar from other types of intellectual property registration because trademarks can be registered at both the state and federal level, while patents and copyrights are only registered federally.
What Are Trademarks Used For?
Trademarks are an immensely important part of doing business and registered trademarks can be very valuable business assets. Trademark protection is predominantly about protecting the public from imposters and unfair business practices. Trademark protection can be sought for iconic images, stylized text, slogans, etc. that represent your business, when the public associates that distinctive mark with your business. Your mark symbolizes a certain expected quality of the good or service you are providing to customers. By registering your trademark, if an imposter tries to steal your success by using your trademark for their own economic gain, you can exercise your trademark rights and prevent them from trying to pose as you and your business.
Use of a Trademark Creates Enforceable Rights
Use of a distinctive mark can create trademark-like protection in a limited geographic area without registration of the mark. However, this is a very limited scenario that very infrequently plays out in favor of the unregistered mark holder. Usually a company will develop a trademark and will begin using it while they wait for their mark to go through the registration process. An unregistered trademark may use the symbol ™ to designate that use of the mark without permission is prohibited.
Registering a Trademark
When filing for a trademark registration at the Federal level, an applicant must provide to the United States Patent and Trademark Office a picture of the distinctive mark and must designate what classifications of goods or services that mark will apply to. For example, a company that sells sporting equipment may develop a line of golf gear branded with a special logo. The company can seek registration of the logo, and specify that use of the logo will be for golf equipment, and sporting goods. So long as the mark is not already in use or registered by another in the same classifications at the time of a trademark application filing, the mark will issue as a registered trademark and may use the symbol ® to designate the mark’s registered status.
Trademarks and service marks registered in the state of California must be registered with the Secretary of State’s office. The registration process for the state of California is modeled after the federal registration process and it is always a good idea to get both types of trademark registration protection to best safeguard your business assets. Registering with the state provides state rights, while registering with the Federal government provides federal protection.
A registered trademark can be very important to your company’s branding strategy and maintaining your company’s good business reputation. When you need advice, assistance with the registration process, or need to sue someone for the impermissible use of your mark, you’ll need the counsel of an experienced trademark attorney. The attorneys at the Law Office of Kenechi R. Agu have obtained trademark and service mark rights for many of our clients and have aggressively fought to discourage misuse of our client’s marks by others. We can help you protect your intellectual property rights.