Trademarks are words, symbols, shapes, or even sounds and colors that are used to identify and distinguish the source of a good or service from others. This is a less expensive process than a patent, and should not be confused with either patents or copyrights. However, trademarks can be very valuable.
Trademarks exist by their use. For example, "Norred Law" is a trademark used by our law firm. At the time of this writing, however, it is not registered with either the state or federal government. That lack of registration does not mean that it does not exist. The fact that consumers recognize "Norred Law" as a firm providing legal services makes "Norred Law" a trademark, by definition.
Federal registration of a mark has advantages, even if it is not required. Registration gives notice to the public of the registrant's claim of ownership of the mark, provides a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the goods or services listed in the registration. (Trademarks referring to a service are often called "service marks".)
Trademarks can also be registered in Texas and many other states, and can be the basis of state-law claims, such as those concerning deceptive trade practices and misappropriation.
One of the most common errors made by business owners is a failure to properly ensure that trademarks they wish to use are available and are registrable before investing too much time and effort into a mark that is difficult to protect. Business owners also tend to choose trademarks that are too geographic or generic words. The difference between "Norred Law" and "Arlington Trademark Services" is that the former would be allowed registration, while the second would not. The word "law" would have to be disclaimed during the registration process, leaving the word "Norred" as the prominent word that separates the company name from all other legal names. However, an applicant seeking to register "Arlington Trademark Services" would have to disclaim "Arlington" because it is a geographic descriptor, and both "trademark" and "services" because they are descriptive and generic, respectively, which leaves nothing on which to hang the registration.
Trademarks are either ordinary text, or are stylized with a graphical element. For example, "Coke" is a registered character mark, but the Nike swoosh is a graphical mark.
When applying for trademark registration, an applicant must also designate the class of products or services. Each different class costs $275 in filing fees.
Trademark registration is far less expensive and consuming than patent applications, typically between $1000 and $1500, which includes one class. The process for a trademark registration typically takes between six and eighteen months. A trademark is published publicly so anyone who might want to oppose the registration can do so, in a process known as an Opposition Proceeding. Defending an application against an Opposition will raise the cost of registration substantially.
Call to discuss or schedule an appointment with our trademark attorney Warren Norred at one of our offices located in Arlington, Southlake, or Weatherford Texas. Call us at 817-704-3984.
Before you come in, feel free to watch this primer on trademark registration that we've posted to Youtube.