Trademarks are one type of intellectual property, as are patents and copyrights. However, obtaining a registered trademark can be confusing due to complexities in the process.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office explains trademarks only denote your rights to use a certain mark in the sale of your services or products. This point can be hard to understand.
Some people think that by owning a trademark, it means others cannot use words, images or phrases that are part of the mark, independent of the type of business they or you own. This is not exactly true. You do not own the actual content. Others can use the same words or marks – but they cannot use it to sell products that are in direct competition to yours. They may however be able to use your trademark for a completely different product or service.
Also, many people think a trademark should be very simple, and closely related to the underlying goods or service. The reality is the more unique – and less ‘descriptive’ – you can make it, the better protection you get for it.
Lastly, people confuse owning and registering a trademark. If you own a trademark, which can happen as soon as you start using it in business, you have immediate rights within your geographic area. To have nationwide rights, you must register for trademark protection with the US Patent and Trademark Office. You do not have to register, but it gives you significantly increased protection for your mark.
When it comes to intellectual property, the rules can be complex. Learning as much as you can about your rights will help you to better protect them.